Choosing Between Groups Who Need Help is Not Necessary: Statement from Milwaukee NLG

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Friday, September 17, 2021

By Emilio DeTorre, Milwaukee Turners; Shannon Ross, The Community; and Molly Collins, Felmers Chaney Advocacy Board

There is currently a conversation happening about closing and demolishing the Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center and using that space to open a type 1 youth facility to finally deliver on the legislature’s promise to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Youth prisons.  We think this is a false choice Milwaukee shouldn’t have to make.  We believe that it is possible to find a site for the youth facility, in or near the city of Milwaukee, and that our community and political leaders can agree on a location that isn’t at the expense of another important service.

It is absolutely critical that we close the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.  The children who are there need to be in smaller facilities, closer to their families and communities, rather than more than four hours north, where they can’t receive the help they need. Because of state law requiring the existence of a type 1 facility, we can’t close that prison without opening a new one. But we don’t need to close the Chaney center to do so.

The Chaney Center provides critical pre-release services, with 100 beds for men returning to our community from prison.  While people are there, they can get substance abuse or mental health treatment, find employment and housing, and be in a supportive environment while they get back on their feet. These are essential services and help people rejoin our community and improve their success and healthy connection to their families and neighborhoods, which makes us all safer.

More people in the Wisconsin prison system return to Milwaukee county than any other county in the state. The Chaney Center allows them to successfully reintegrate through a variety of programs designed to produce successful reentry into the city.  This includes providing comprehensive fatherhood programming, family support within proximity of their families, interactive off-site events, public speaking and volunteering opportunities in the community, custom employment prospects, and a variety of substance abuse and mental health treatment offerings. One man who is currently there is beginning a career in Computer Automated Drafting, which he learned during his sentence. Opportunities like this that are difficult to impossible at other work centers, yet they are exactly what we need for returning citizens so they can have the sustainable structure that will make them not only refrain from crime upon release, but become assets and leaders in Milwaukee.

Both Governor Evers and former Governor Walker called for the closing of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.  The Wisconsin State legislature has failed to put the appropriate money in the budget to create an alternative to this violent site that was found to be unsafe for children and adults, and that neglected to provide the necessary social or educational services for the children in the state’s care.

The Chaney Center has long been considered by men who resided there to offer the best support for a successful return to Milwaukee in contrast to the state’s other facilities. To remove it in order to provide a safer and improved environment for incarcerated children is a ridiculous trade off, and one for which there exists many other alternatives.  We do not believe that Milwaukee has no commercial or public real estate that can be developed into a more supportive and appropriate environment for our children. We do not believe that the Chaney Center must be destroyed to offer a successful local alternative for Lincoln Hills.

We should not reduce the number of available pre-release beds in our community because we can’t agree on a suitable location for a new youth facility.  We have to do better and serve both groups of people who need help.  

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NLG on Wisconsin Public Radio: Art Heitzer and Sameena Mulla Join Attorney Kimberley Motley to Discuss What Happens Next in the Charging of Former Police Officer Joseph Mensah

Photo from outside the courtroom on July 28, courtesy of Art Heitzer.

After Milwaukee Judge Glenn Yamahiro found probable cause exists to charge former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in the murder of Jay Anderson Jr, Milwaukee NLG issued a statement applauding the decision.

WPR invited Attorney Kimberley Motley and members of Milwaukee NLG Art Heitzer and Sameena Mulla to discuss what happens next. Listen to the audio from their appearance here.

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Testimony of the Milwaukee NLG Opposing Wisconsin Assembly Bill 411 and Senate Bill 411

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August 10, 2021

WrittenTestimony of the National Lawyers Guild Milwaukee Chapter
In Opposition to Assembly Bill 411 and Senate Bill 411

In front of the joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Education Committees

Dear Chair Darling, Chair Thiesfeldt, and members of both committees, 

We write to oppose Assembly Bill and Senate Bill 411. No one favors teaching stereotypes based on race or sex, and it would be inappropriate to give racist or sexist ideas a platform in our schoolrooms, but this is not what the bill is seeking to suppress. The concepts disallowed in the bill would create a slippery slope that would place many restrictions on the honest efforts of teachers to engage students in a thoughtful way in our country’s history.  

There is voluminous scholarship highlighting that throughout human and U.S. history, race, class, and sex are key indicators of power – whether political, social or economic. For example, if a state legislature, made up of mostly white men, attempts to control education and instruction, they will do so with their worldview in mind. Absent input from a wide community of educators, diverse in their race, class, and sex, this bill amounts to political fascism. In the panoply of curricular and pedagogical approaches, academic and scientific rigor determine what teachings are most accurate, not the uninformed or misinformed opinions of elected officials.

The intent of these bills is broadly to protect white men’s feelings, and it seems likely that the stereotypes that would be challenged under this potential framework are those that identify inequities in the systems that benefit white people and say that America isn’t a strict meritocracy – that white privilege exists and institutional and structural racism also exist. These decisions would specifically put the feelings and concerns of white men above those from women and students of color. The bill creates a scenario in which teachers delivering education about inequality in the past and its relationship to inequality in the present accused of participating in “reverse discrimination” because it would make white students feel bad (and would be prohibited by these bills).  As society has moved away from the ‘colorblind’ ideas of the 80s and 90s, we have recognized that people have different experiences of the world that are influenced by their race, class or gender and to ignore those is to not treat people as fully human.  12(d) seems to suggest we go back to this ‘colorblind’ ideal, which we have grown past.  

It is important for scientists and lay people to identify how circumstances and people are impacted by their environment. To pretend that historical and contemporary injustices are not open to honest, rigorous critique is a gross embrace of fiction and make believe. This bill seeks to create legislation that expensively forces schools across our state to onerously post curricula, and then open themselves up to frivolous and random attacks by the public based on uninformed opinions. This is dangerous to our education system and the healthy social development of our children. Creating this unjust and unfunded mandate will also allow the government to withhold ten percent of the school system’s budget without outlining even the broadest of processes to investigate or guide these threatened cuts.  It offends both in its content and the integrity of the policymaking process. 

This bill is a thinly veiled effort to intimidate educators, and expose them to lawsuits by people not informed enough to know what should be taught and how. The bill is not seeking to suppress the teaching of racism and sexism.   This legislation is not necessary, helpful, or thoughtful, so please vote no on AB/SB 411. Thank you.

  1. FAQs on Bills Restricting the Teaching of History:
  1. A Lesson on Critical Race Theory: 

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Milwaukee National Lawyers Guild Applauds Charging Decision in the Murder of Jay Anderson

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The Milwaukee National Lawyers Guild applauds yesterday’s decision to charge former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in the murder of Jay Anderson, Jr. The Guild commends Mr. Anderson’s family for their courageous and painful battle to seek justice for their son. Guild Steering Committee member Sameena Mulla commented, “Today’s decision would not be possible without the steadfastness of Mr. Anderson’s family, nor would it have been possible without the outstanding work of Atty. Kimberley Motley. It is the Guild’s opinion that since February, Atty. Motley has built a thorough and irrefutable case demonstrating Joseph Mensah’s responsibility for the death of Mr. Anderson.”

Guild members attended all of the hearings in this case, and were impressed with the careful way in which Atty. Motley presented the evidence and examined witnesses, and with Judge Glenn Yamahiro’s judicious consideration and detailed attention. It is rare to see judges make courageous decisions towards justice in such cases. What emerged during the hearings was a picture of an officer whose conduct repeatedly contravened standard police operating procedures. The hearings also raised serious questions about the improper interference of the subject Wauwatosa Police Department in the subsequent investigation by the Milwaukee Police Department, and the inadequate and superficial investigations by the MPD and then the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, which were charged with the serious duty of determining whether this homicide was legally justified. Had Mr. Anderson’s family not pursued this strategy with Atty. Motley, the failures of Joseph Mensah, and of the law enforcement agencies which claimed to investigate, would not have come to light. 

Atty. Ramon Valdez, Guild Steering Committee member, noted that “The sheer depth and breadth of the evidence Atty. Motley brought before the court highlighted both Joseph Mensah’s questionable choices, and the many holes in the investigations and procedures by the agencies we have entrusted to hold police accountable.”

The Guild also asserted that efforts to properly hold individual police officers accountable in citizen deaths are an absolute priority, and that these should be coupled with efforts to systematically interrogate the professional culture of police departments that appear to foster and even condone improper behavior when they refuse to thoroughly investigate. 

Emilio De Torre, Guild Steering Committee member, commented, “We always hear about police who are involved in civilian deaths as ‘bad apples,’ but the whole saying is ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel.’ Holding one officer accountable is an important first step, but there is a bigger picture here that needs to be addressed.”

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July 28 at 10AM: See & Hear Judge Yamahiro’s decision on issuing criminal charges against Joseph Mensah for the fatal shooting of Jay Anderson

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July 28, Wednesday, 10am

See & hear Judge Yamahiro’s decision on issuing criminal charges against Joseph Mensah for the fatal shooting of Jay Anderson (family & supporters hope to pack the court in Room G 55 of the Milw. County Criminal Justice Facility at  949 N 9th St., at W State St., Milwaukee, WI 53233) or online (at:; please note that the page may be muted when you first join and you will have to unmute in order to hear the court.) To view Atty. Motley’s closing argument on why charges should be issued against Mensah, see , You can also see Isaiah Holmes’ reporting in the Wisconsin Examiner on the preceding evidentiary sessions. 

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Jay Anderson, Jr., John Doe Case to Resume May 4; Anderson Shot & Killed by then-Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah

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CBS 58 reported on this case on March 25, including testimony from Anderson’s girlfriend and a former Washington. DC, police detective. The detective stated that “There is no evidence that at the time he was shot that Mr. Anderson was lunging towards the gun” and that Mensah should be charged. You can watch their coverage here.

The concluding hearing is scheduled for May 4, starting at 9 AM, in room 635 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Judge Glenn Yamahiro is presiding. Attorney Kim Motely, who presented during our April 1 event, will be giving evidence on why criminal charges should be brought against Joseph Mensah for his fatal shooting of Jay Anderson. You can see the hearing in person or online.

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What’s Wrong With the Wauwatosa Police Department?

The National Lawyers Guild – Milwaukee Chapter and the Milwaukee Turners hosted a presentation and panel with Attorney Kimberley Motley, Attorney Ramon Valdez and Sedan Smith.

Recorded April 1, 2021

All over the country Americans are wrestling with the suffering and trauma caused by racist – and all too frequently fatal – interactions between institutions like law enforcement and civilians. Some people who seem beholden to our status quo of white supremacy, and the infallibility of law enforcement, condemn the patriotism, morality and legality of even questioning the actions of the government or police during the aftermath of these events. Point in case, the Milwaukee National Lawyer’s Guild Facebook Group was taken down by Facebook last night because numerous people complained about the event – implying that this is somehow hate speech. [Note: Facebook reversed its decision on Thursday night, April 1st, w/o explanation or apology.]

You can watch the full presentation on YouTube here.

CBS 58 News covered the presentation; you can see their story here.

The Milwaukee Courier also featured the presentation in their weekly newspaper; you can see their coverage here.

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36 Milwaukee groups ask if local officers participated in assault on nation’s Capitol

Dear Members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission;

City of Milwaukee Public Safety and Health Committee;

Sheriff Earnell Lucas;

City of Milwaukee Interim Police Chief Jeffrey Norman;

Police Chiefs of Milwaukee County;

Did our local officers participate in the assault on the Capitol?

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the involvement of law enforcement agents in the events on Washington, D.C. on January 6th. Every day, media reports(1)  add to the tally of police officers who are being investigated for their potential participation in the violent assault on Capitol Hill. Despite the heroic actions of a few individual law enforcement agents protecting the Capitol building, the inadequacy of the police response has been a keenly felt takeaway of the event. The inability to prevent terror, the destruction of property, and loss of human life has inspired fear. For many members of the public, the lack of effective response also suggests the potential of collusion between those agents of the law and the invaders. 

To allay public concerns, we call upon local Fire and Police Commissions, the Milwaukee Common Council Committee on Public Safety and Health, and the various police agencies and Sheriff’s administration to investigate the extent of participation of local law enforcement agents in Milwaukee County. Police agencies across the country(2) have begun such investigations, and it is time for a similar care to be taken here in Milwaukee. As individuals from Wisconsin(3) have been identified as participants in the assault, the public must be assured that officers of the law did not travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in these illegal activities. Fleeting social media posts by law enforcement in Milwaukee since January 6th have demonstrated approval and support for the law breakers in Washington, D.C. As our Milwaukee County community struggles to heal from the violence in Washington, D.C., and to minimize the potential of future attacks locally and nationally, we must collectively be assured that our sworn officers of the law did not participate in these anti-democratic activities. 

We urge you to investigate whether local law enforcement participated in the unlawful insurrection that took place at our nation’s Capital and report back to the public with your findings. 


The National Lawyers Guild of Milwaukee

African American Roundtable

American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin 

Ayuda Mutua of Milwaukee

Black and Pink

Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin

BLOC – Black Leaders Organizing Communities

Brown Berets – Milwaukee

The Community 

Community Task force – Milwaukee

ExPO – Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing

Forward Latino

Jewish Voices For Peace – Milwaukee

League of Progressive Seniors

Metcalfe Park Community Bridges

Milwaukee Action Intersection

Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission

Milwaukee Freedom Fund

Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) 

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coaltion

Milwaukee Turners

NAACP – Milwaukee

National Lawyers Guild, Milwaukee Chapter 

Overpass Light Brigade

Pastors United

Peace Action of Wisconsin

People’s Revolution – Milwaukee

Progressive Baptist Church

Rid Racism – Milwaukee

Riverwest Outdoor Educational Adventures, Inc.

Sikh Temple of Milwaukee

Souls to the Polls


Veterans for Peace, Chapter 102

Wisconsin Justice Initiative

Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance

1.     “US Capitol riot: police have long history of aiding neo-Nazis and extremists,” Sam Levin, The Guardian, January 16, 2021

2.     “Police departments across the U.S. open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot,” Kim Bellware, The Washington Post, January 9, 2021

3.     “West Allis man charged with entering U.S. Capitol during riot says he saw police shoot woman,” Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 15, 2021

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by Dr Jody Melamed, associate professor of English and Africana Studies at Marquette University and member of the Milwaukee Chapter of the NLG.

We invite you to read this excellent article, recently published at

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The NLG of Milwaukee Condemns Deceitful and False Allegations of Voter Fraud in Wisconsin

January 11, 2021— The National Lawyers Guild of Milwaukee condemns the false allegations of State Representatives alleging intentional voter misconduct and fraud during the recent presidential election. Recently, Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) made the following statement while objecting to Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes: “Democrat leaders in Milwaukee illegally and unconstitutionally created more than 200 illegal polling places, thousands of votes were changed. We object.” (1) Gohmert, along with Wisconsin Representatives Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald, and 57 of their colleagues betrayed their oaths of office by intentionally sowing mistrust in the American electoral system to further their own political agendas. They knowingly implied that there was fraud and “voting irregularities” in our state and others in an effort to deceive the public and overturn our votes so that they could try to supplant their own candidates instead of those elected. We feel this deception, especially as amplified by President Donald Trump not only erodes faith in our democracy but is in part responsible for the violence and destruction that took place in the nation’s Capitol recently that resulted in five deaths including that of a uniformed police officer.

“This is a disgusting and irresponsible lie. As many NLG members and others who participated with Republican election workers in processing and protecting the ballots in Milwaukee can attest: votes were NOT changed,” stated Atty. Arthur Heitzer. He teamed with a GOP co-worker who agreed on all ballots they processed, and they were pictured together in the New York Times while jointly processing some of the 169,000 early votes that were released in Milwaukee after midnight of Election Day. Those votes could not be processed prior to November 3rd because of a mandate from the Wisconsin legislature.


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