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Milwaukee Group Teaches Protesters Civil Disobedience Tactics


People across this country found different ways in the past year to protest against the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. They stormed restaurants. They blocked interstates. They staged die-ins. And in Ferguson, Missouri, some also set things on fire. In Milwaukee, protesters are receiving training. Their goal is to find the best ways to commit civil disobedience. Here is LaToya Dennis from member station WUWM.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: There's a lot to consider if there's a chance you might be arrested.


SHEA SCHACHAMEYER: Depending on who you are, that could be, like, who's going to pick my kids up? Is my car going to get towed when it's left at the meter?

DENNIS: That's Shea Schachameyer, a longtime activist.


SCHACHAMEYER: The first time I was arrested in Milwaukee was 2003, at the start of the Iraq war, the big demonstration that was downtown.

DENNIS: On this night, she leads a session on a nonviolence action at All Peoples Church in Milwaukee.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) We got the power.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who's got the power?

PROTESTERS: (Chanting) We got the power.

DENNIS: About a hundred people are here learning new tactics.


SCHACHAMEYER: How about the back of the room? You guys - quick - you're going to blockade that doorway or this whole section from table to table.

DENNIS: As people form lines and link arms, Schachameyer warns them.

SCHACHAMEYER: We're going to do a bunch of different scenarios. And if you need to call it off, if you're, like, getting hurt or uncomfortable in some way, just say, this is real; stop. And that's our code word, this is real.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is a mistake (laughter).


DENNIS: There is a lot of laughter as attendees try to break through the barricade. But these are serious issues. For months, people in Milwaukee have protested a fatal police shooting. Last April, a white police officer shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times. Hamilton was schizophrenic and didn't have a weapon. The officer was fired. But the district attorney didn't file charges. Now the officer wants his job back. And soon, the city's police commission will decide whether he should be rehired. Martha Davis Kipcak is one of the participants at the church. She's white and 58 years old.

MARTHA DAVIS KIPCAK: I don't think that we can just continue to have conversations with our friends and family around the dinner table. That's clearly not enough - that we have to find a way to be active and to raise our voice in solidarity against injustice.

DENNIS: Davis Kipcak says the community should be talking about race relations. Curtis Sails is co-founder of the Coalition for Justice, which organized the training. He hopes his group helps to foster that conversation.

CURTIS SAILS: Police, even though they wear a badge, even though they take an oath of office, some of them continue to brutalize and oppress and repress true freedom, true justice.

DENNIS: Sails says the U.S. is in the middle of a new civil rights era led by the people marching and protesting across the country. For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

LaToya Dennis joined WUWM in October 2006 as a reporter / producer. LaToya began her career in public radio as a part-time reporter for WKAR AM/FM in East Lansing, Michigan. She worked as general assignment reporter for WKAR for one and a half years while working toward a master's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. While at WKAR, she covered General Motors plant closings, city and state government, and education among other critical subjects.
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