Posted on Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020 at 7:59 pm
Thousands of people have come out in Madison and around Wisconsin over the past few weeks to protest the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many taken before them at the hands of police. I have heard from thousands of Madisonians in the past week, the vast majority of whom are supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and the peaceful protests that have occurred in Madison. I recognize that there is deep pain as a result of long-term historical harms to the Black community, --much of which is just now being acknowledged nationally by the White community as a product of seeing a video detailing a brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of police.
What happened last night in Madison was far from the peaceful protests that have largely marked our community’s grieving process over recent weeks. The behaviors we saw were incredibly dangerous and intolerable—putting people’s lives at risk.
It is important that we separate First Amendment protests from those engaged in criminal conduct.
Last night, people attacked a State Senator who championed workers’ rights in 2011, pulled people out of their cars, and attempted to set fire to a building with dozens of people inside. Anyone who engaged in violence and criminal conduct against people or property on the streets of Madison will be held accountable.
I have asked the Madison Police Department to expedite the investigation all the incidents of cars pushing through crowds, arson, including throwing Molotov cocktails into buildings, and other incidents putting people in harm’s way and to make arrests or issue citations as warranted.
I have asked for Devonere Johnson, also known as Yeshua Musa’s initial appearance before a judge to be expedited so he can be released on bail. I recognize that we need better options to deescalate situations and offer restorative justice in our community.
Over the past weeks, we have heard chants of "Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!" It's time for that “us” and that “we” to include everyone in Madison. Because every single person who lives here deserves to be and feel safe in our City. And it is up to every single one of us to make that true. Everyone - police, protester, elected official, business owner, resident - everyone must find it within themselves to show compassion and kindness for each other, and to care about each other's safety and well-being.
People are asking for real, substantive changes, and the City is responding.
Today, Madison City and School District leaders agreed to end the contract for School Resource Officers (SROs) - police officers stationed in schools - calling for a new approach to managing conflicts in our schools and supporting student needs. Mayor Rhodes-Conway, Council President Sheri Carter, and Alders Bidar, Baldeh, Moreland, McKinney, Rummel, Martin, Kemble, Furman, Evers and Heck are co-sponsoring a resolution to introduce at the next City Council meeting on July 14 to terminate the contract before the beginning of the next school year. The School Board will vote on this on Monday.
Local community organizers have been calling for the removal of SROs from Madison schools, citing significant racial disparities, school-based arrests and citations. Ending this contract, effectively removing SROs from schools, is a first step to addressing this disparity. We must now work together to redirect funding for police to new forms of youth and student support.
City Alders and County Supervisors and City staff are closely evaluating alternative ways to respond to crises in schools, and in our communities.
I want all of our community to know that we are working to end the violence and keep everyone safe. Everyone in Madison must now be part of this effort - to create safety where there is fear, to create understanding where there is mistrust, and to bring healing where there has been harm.