On Friday night, protesters assembled downtown to celebrate the life of Breonna Taylor and to speak out against police violence against black men and women.
Taylor, who was murdered by a Louisville police officer, would have been 27 on Friday. After a few brief words, organizers announced that the event would be an evening of music and celebration in honor of Taylor.
Since the first protest on May 30th, not a single day has passed in Madison without demonstrators organizing in support of black lives. There have been protests on State Street, at the Capitol Square, outside the Dane County jail, and along major streets throughout the city.
One youth-led group known as Impact Demand is helping to lead the call for racial and social justice in Madison.
After Friday’s celebration of the life of Breonna Taylor, members of Impact Demand took to the mic on Saturday to express outrage at the murders of black men and women by police throughout the country.
Ayomi Obuseh, one of the group’s organizers, said that there’s a time to celebrate, and there’s a time for action.
“Yesterday was a party, yesterday we had fun. But let’s not forget, we are still angry, we are still upset, and there’s still a lot to get done,” Obuseh said. “The fact that Madison still has Tony Robinson’s killer working is unacceptable.”
The immediate termination of Matt Kenny from the Madison Police Department is one of the group’s primary demands.
They’re also pushing for adoption of a piece of legislation known as Breonna’s Law. The law would heavily restrict usage of “No-Knock Warrants” that allow police to enter a home without letting occupants know.
Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own home after a Louisville Police officer used a No-Knock Warrant to enter her home unannounced.
Youth protesters gathered at the Capitol steps and State Street for all of last week. The group flips between memorials, drills where white protesters link arms to protect Black protectors in the center, and song.
On Sunday, a small group of about 20 activists and protesters met at James Madison Park. The protesters ranged in age, but most were in their late teens to mid-twenties.
After the loud, amplified protests at the steps of the Capitol the night before, the tone at the town hall-style discussion was conversational.
According to organizer Marquon, who goes by the alias Sire GQ, the smaller meeting allowed everyone there to speak openly on how to assemble for change.
“Protesting is good, but if we’re not getting all of our issues out, we’re frustrated. A lot of that stuff is bottled in. They want to voice themselves but they’re not being heard, and right now we’re giving everybody their opportunity to be heard,” he says. “My sister just died today, and I’m still out here, because I want my kids to have a good future. Protesting, no one’s going back and forth, no one’s answering the questions, they’re just talking. I want to know exactly what you want me to do, and I’ll get it done.”
During the two-hour long meeting, participants debated the best way to organize future demonstrations and how to engage elected officials in open dialogue with protesters.
The group also shared the names of and contact information of elected officials so they could each contact senators and city alders. There was conversation about what reform legislation to support and debating the merits of defunding the Madison Police Department.
Amari Rios, one of the participants in Sunday’s gathering, said that the meeting offers a dialogue and a perspective into the early steps of new movements.
“I feel like these are some of the most important conversations. These are the early steps of planning, and it’s really nice to see the background of how everything goes along. On a larger scale, your voice is probably not as loud, but in these spaces, you’re actually able to get your voice heard and be able to listen easier and be able to actually make some change.”
Tatayana, another participant on Sunday, says the protests serve an important purpose of drawing attention to issues, but the movement should be community-led and focus on a diverse range of voices.
“I think they both serve a purpose. But I really enjoyed doing this today, because I feel like the big protests, even though they have an open mic, it feels more like we’re hearing one or two voices and they try to take over everything,” Tatayana says. “I think it’s important that a movement like this is community-led. It’s important all of our voices are heard and we’re not written out of history.”