Day of Action in Madison, Wisconsin: Hundreds of Students and Others March to Governor's Mansion

March 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

The March 11 National Day of Action in Madison was called long before the police murder of Tony Robinson, as an action for mainly economic justice. After his murder on March 6, it became a Black Lives Matter affair, with hundreds of high school students joining in.  Some of the students, and others, came from other cities in Wisconsin. At its peak, there were about 1,000 there.

Hundreds of students gathered in the park, just before 3 pm. The Revolution Club from Chicago was in the middle of this, taking out revolution and building for the April 14 Shut-Down day. Also there was Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network--who had just come from the 50th anniversary events in Selma, Alabama, and from the protests in Ferguson. The students at the park took up the striking stickers for the April 14th Shut-Down day as if they were thirsting for them. As the stickers were handed out, the youth were told that the whole country needs to look like Madison looked two days ago (when 2,000+ walked out of school and took over the State Capitol). They were challenged to “take Madison everywhere” as the world watches. The only thing as popular, or more popular, was the whistles being handed out in the hundreds.  Before too long, the air began to fill with the sound of whistles, growing steadily as more whistles got out, matching the cadence of whatever chants or circumstances were going on. 

Madison, March 11.Marching in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, March 11. AP photo

As the rally was about to begin, a contingent of students from East High arrived, joined by three buses full of students from West high, with three banners from Chicago in the front. They had a “chant off” with the larger group in the park, standing behind their Black Lives Matter banner. “What’s his name? Tony Robinson!” “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” The “uniform of the day” was some sign like “justice for Tony” combined with an A14 sticker and a whistle. 

Among the high school students there were some who thought the whistles were for fun only. When it was explained to them that blowing the whistle is a call for people to come together and resist when the police are messing with someone, it became clear that this is serious business. It can really make a difference in whether the encounter becomes brutal or deadly as it often does. Many small flyers were distributed along with the whistles explaining March 14 “blow the whistle on brutal, murdering cops” day.

Carl Dix in Madison, March 11. From a tweet by @wnkramer

After a few short speeches at the park, which included statements from Tony Robinson’s family, people formed up and marched to the nearby Department of Corrections. One speaker referred to it as the “incorrect” department that needs to be “corrected.” The main theme was for restorative justice as opposed to mass incarceration ruining lives. The speakers positioned themselves on a small hill in front of the DOC sign. They positioned the banners along the crest of the hill: the banner with photos of many youth killed by Chicago police, a Stolen Lives banner with the names of hundreds murdered by police all over the country, the big Black Lives Matter banner that has been in the front of all of the protests; and a big blue banner with April 14—Stop Murder by Police, #ShutDownA14.

After the speeches, the crowd took over both sides of the street and marched. It stopped in front of the Burger King where a speaker told of a woman who worked there earning $7.25 per hour, and then being promised a raise of $1 to be manager. After three months of not getting the raise, she protested—only to be fired. There was actually a lot of unity around opposing police murder of Black and Brown people from the people organizing around labor issues, in particular the low wage worker movement “fight for 15.” One labor organizer got out a few whistles, then came back and insisted on taking 100 whistles, which she distributed in a few minutes.   

From there the march wound around until we were in a very upscale neighborhood, with mansions on Lake Mendota. The destination was Governor Scott Walker’s house. One young Black woman remarked, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” The neighbors didn’t exactly come out and welcome us. More speeches were made in front of his mansion. The mother and brother of Dontre Hamilton spoke. Dontre was a mentally challenged man who was accosted at a public park in Milwaukee by a cop and shot 14 times. An "independent investigation" as required by Wisconsin law was completed with the verdict "justifiable homicide." Nate Hamilton, Dontre's brother, in particular was angry, and sharp. He looked behind himself at the governor’s mansion, and noted “they haven’t done anything, not anything.” His mother is calling for a national protest around “mothers for justice united” in DC in May.

Carl Dix, by popular demand, made a short statement about the relationship between what has been happening in Madison and #ShutDownA14.

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