On May 17, 2017, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced his appointment as Assistant Secretary to the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke will run the Office of Partnership and Engagement, which connects police and sheriff departments around the country to Homeland Security’s work.
Some people in Milwaukee have applauded the appointment, glad to be rid of the sheriff. Many around the country, unfamiliar with Clarke, have not paid much attention to this new development. We see things differently: Sheriff Clarke is an enemy of the people. If he takes this position in Homeland Security, he will be a significant threat to oppressed communities around the country. Here are six reasons why:
One. Four people have been killed in his jails in the past year. One of the victims, Terrill Thomas, died of dehydration after having his water supply cut off for seven days. Another was the newborn baby of Melissa Hall, who was forced to give birth in her cell without any help. Her newborn died from lack of medical attention. All of these deaths are the result of torture or negligence, and are carried out by sheriffs following Clarke’s orders.
Two. He is a self-declared enemy of the Black Lives Matter movement. After the July shooting of five police officers in Dallas, Clarke wrote an article titled This is a War, and Black Lives Matter is the Enemy. In it, he called for total support of police and said, “It’s time to come to the aid of our police, our front-line soldiers, by calling this war, and not terrorism…We as a people need to declare that we stand with rule of law, and not with the false tales of the revolutionary Marxist forces, who most recently have rebranded themselves from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter.”
Three. He is a major supporter of Trump’s mass deportation policies. Clarke has fought for Milwaukee law enforcement to join Homeland Security’s 287(g) program, which deputizes police officers and sheriffs to operate as ICE agents. His efforts to increase deportations have led to massive mobilizations among Milwaukee’s immigrants, with 30,000 marching on May Day against the sheriff’s efforts to bring 287(g) to our city.
Four. He wants to increase police surveillance of Arabs and Muslims. Clarke has praised the controversial efforts of NYPD to patrol, profile and spy on Muslim neighborhoods. He has also referred to Islam as a political ideology of terrorism, not a religion.
Five. He does not hesitate to repress his political opponents. In December 2014, a large group of protesters shut down a Milwaukee freeway to protest the police murder of Dontre Hamilton. After Sheriff Clarke ordered their immediate arrest, the protesters were surrounded and 74 people were arrested. A rapid-response demonstration happened outside the jail, and money was quickly raised to get everyone out on bail.
During the August 2016 uprising in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood after another killing of a Black man by the police, Clarke ordered the park at the center of the neighborhood closed to prevent demonstrations from happening there. When the county executive ordered the parks reopened, Clarke attempted to keep his order in place and was only stopped after a restraining order was issued by a local judge.
Six. He is a loose cannon. Sheriff Clarke is a man with little emotional control and constantly tries to dominate local politics. In 2016, Milwaukee County had to spend $400,000 in taxpayer money for Clarke’s attorneys so that he could fight a legal battle against the county board, while at the same time the county had to spend additional money defending itself in court. The cause for this legal scuffle? The Sheriff believed that his freedom of speech was being denied.
Also in 2016, he ordered his sheriffs to interrogate Dan Black, a Milwaukee native, after he shook his head at Clarke on an airplane. After Black went public with the story, the Milwaukee sheriff’s Facebook page shared a meme that read, “Cheer up, Snowflake. If Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”
Sheriff Clarke is our enemy. Anyone who stands with Black Lives Matter, Muslims, immigrants and victims of political repression should demand that David Clarke not join Homeland Security. If you are interested in becoming more involved, please message the Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump on their Facebook page.
Sean Orr and Juan Perez are activists with the Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump.