During last night’s protest, attendees stood in silence for eight minutes to mourn the death of George Floyd. They congregated on the steps of the capitol building, and set up a memorial to multiple victims of police violence at the center of the protest. The protest flipped between solemn memorials, an open mic night for spoken word poetry by people of color, protection drills for white folks to protect people of color from police, and a party.
The protests were peaceful, just as last night, with no violent incidents. According to Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl, two arrests were made in the area for graffiti.
And yesterday afternoon, as city workers cleaned up the flowerpots that rioters had tipped over in previous evenings, local officials showed solidarity with the protestors. Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Dane County sheriff Dave Mahoney, acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl, and others all took a knee, a symbol of opposition to police brutality.
“And let me say again, as I have said before, unequivocally, that George Floyd should be alive today,” said Rhodes-Conway. “Tony Robinson should be alive today. That black lives always have, and always will, matter. And that I understand that anger that builds in the world doesn’t have to happen.”
Rhodes-Conway also condemned the destruction of property on State Street, adding that she was happy Tuesday night was peaceful.
The CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, Michael Johnson, organized the unity event. He announced that his organization, which specializes in youth development programs, would be hiring 75 peacekeepers to de-escalate situations at the protests. The peacekeepers would be trained by Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes and former MPD Chief Anthony Cooper, and paid $12.83 an hour. Outside the event, some protested the decision to hire peacekeepers.
Johnson says he is angry about police brutality and the death of George Floyd, but wants to use that anger to improve Madison.
“To have people wilding out of control, I just cannot fathom how we as adults can sit and allow these things to just simply happen,” said Johnson. “And I will tell you as a black male who is forty-something years old, I am pissed off. Because you continue to see the same things happening over and over and over again. But I’m choosing to channel my energy in a different direction.”
Johnson says his organization has raised over $200,000 to help fix the damage on State Street. Much of that will go to helping small businesses on state street, half of which, he says, are owned by minorities and women.
Meanwhile, protests by others in the Madison community are ongoing. Freedom Inc, a Madison-based nonprofit that advocates for people of color, is organizing a caravan today. M Adams, the executive director of Freedom Inc., says this is part of a larger movement advocating for people of color to have more local control.
“Today we are taking action to assert community control,” said Adams. “We are no longer going to just be asking and trying to negotiate with elected officials on whether or not we as a people should be able to control and self-determine in regards to what happens to us. Instead we are using our bodies, our intelligence, and our bodies to assert community control.”
Adams says black people should have more self-determination, including the power to fire, hire, dismiss and set procedures for police officers.
Brandi Grayson, the founder of community resource organization Urban Triage who is working with Freedom Inc., says she believes the mayor’s actions don’t go far enough.
“If they were on the same page, we would be at home right now,” said Grayson. “If they were on the same page, they would be having conversation and moving policies and processes to defund police. If we were on the same page, certain people would be removing police from our school. If we were on the same page, there wouldn’t be empty gestures. If we were on the same page, folks wouldn’t be framing our children as violent, but be looking at the police as violent.”
When asked by reporters where the caravan would be heading, Grayson said she would not be giving out that information. As of 5:30pm, the caravan had stopped traffic on the Beltline.