Documentaries

Milwaukee Police Were Called to Remove a Mentally Ill Man Sleeping in a Public Park: A New Documentary Asks Why He Was Killed Instead

A new film tells a shocking tale of police brutality.

Photo Credit: Erik Ljung

Four months before Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a lesser known but equally disturbing case of police brutality occurred 400 miles away.

Dontre Hamilton, 31, was sleeping in Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when a barista at a nearby Starbucks called the non-emergency police hotline to complain. When police arrived, Hamilton "was beaten and shot 14 times," his mother, Maria, told Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November 2015. "Broad daylight. We had 60 witnesses." 

Dontre Hamilton was mentally ill, with an extensive history of paranoia and schizophrenia.

The encounter between the two mothers is one of countless moments in "The Blood Is at the Doorstep," a new documentary film that examines the trauma that continues to haunt Hamilton's loved ones.

The documentary was filmed in the three years following Hamilton's death. Maria now works with Mothers for Justice United, an organization she co-founded to raise awareness of cases like her son's. 

To commemorate his life, the family hosts an annual "Dontre Day" on April 30 in which activists march for unity and change.

Still, there is resistance among law enforcements' strongest proponents. 

"You see how people think," Dontre's brother Nate says in the film. "You have these people that say 'I stand with the blue' and 'I back the blue'... They think that we're just 'out' for police officers... No, we want the police to be better." 

"Sixty percent of people who get arrested have mental health issues, but our police departments don't know how to deal with people with mental health issues," he continues. "We wanted to make sure that the police department understood that the training was inadequate."

This May, a proposed $2.3 million settlement with Hamilton's family was unanimously approved by the city.

"The Blood Is at the Doorstep" screens during the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City on June 09, 7pm, at IFC Center and June 10, 8:45pm, at Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater.

Both screenings will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Erik Ljung, as well as Maria and Nate Hamilton. 

Watch an exclusive trailer:

Watch an exclusive clip:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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