Today marked Madison’s fourth day of protests against police violence, particularly against people of color.
Earlier this afternoon, protesters met downtown at the Dane County Jail before blocking traffic on the Beltline and John Nolen Drive. There, protesters slowed, blocking traffic for about an hour.
The caravan continued to the house of Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney, where protesters placed signs and flowers in honor of the black men and women killed by police.
The protest comes just hours before the Madison Common Council meets for the first time since peaceful protests and unrest have taken place across the country after the police killing of Minneapolis’ George Floyd. The council will vote tonight on a measure to formally condemn the, “Murders of African Americans across the United States of America without consequence.”
Earlier this week, several city alders proposed a measure that would establish an interim committee to put recommended changes to the Madison Police Department into action.
After five years of work by several city committees, 177 recommendations for change were compiled into a final report released last fall. In January, the Common Council formally accepted the recommendations for change, but progress has been slow in its implementation.
According to Alder Rebecca Kemble, who represents Madison’s north side, the new committee wouldn’t have any regulatory authority over police and would instead report to the Common Council and the Mayor’s office.
“They don’t really have authority, what they have is expertise and they will be communicating with the council, and the council has authority over MPD,” Kemble says. “And what the council and the mayor need is to know that those recommendations that the council adopted are being implemented in the way in which they were intended. This ad hoc committee doesn’t have any authority to do anything over MPD, other than to request their cooperation.”
One of the 177 recommendations will eventually establish a board that would have regulatory power over the MPD.
But, according to Kemble, establishing such a board could take months, as the city looks for appropriate members to put on the board.
Now, several other Alders–Council President Sheri Carter, Shiva Bidar, Keith Furman and Christian Albouras–have introduced an alternate recommendation to directly create a Citizen Review Board, which could expedite the process.
But, Kemble says if that happens, the other proposed changes might get lost.
“If they brought this as a separate item, I would 100% support it, because it takes the language directly from the one recommendation of the 177, but unfortunately what gets lost is all of the other 176 recommendations. So I think we need both. We need an interim ad hoc committee to oversee the recommendations and we need, ultimately, a permanent civilian oversight board to oversee the Madison Police Department,” Kemble says.
Initially sparked by the death of George Floyd, demonstrators are also demanding justice for other unarmed black men and women killed by police, including Tony Robinson.
Protesters have advocated for the defunding of the police and for more community overview of law enforcement operations.
Yesterday, at a press conference in front of the jail, protest organizers called for sweeping changes to Madison’s police department and for radical reform to broader economic structures. M. Adams, Co-Executive Director of Freedom Inc, wants elected leaders to re-allocate police funding to programs that help Madison’s black communities.
“We want a complete defunding. We don’t want this police department to have any resources, which would lead to the abolishment of the police as we understand it. We want that funding to be diverted to pro-black and pro-life affirming safety mechanisms,” Adams said.