Interview with Friends of Tony Robinson:

From Shock and Tears to Anger and Leading Thousands in Protest

March 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Anthony “Tony” Robinson, 19, was murdered by a cop in Madison, Wisconsin on March 6—yet another young Black man dead at the hands of the police. The cop forced his way into Tony’s apartment and shot him dead. Then they dragged Tony’s body out of the house, leaving his blood all over the steps of the building. Protests broke out immediately and continued for days. Thousands of high school students walked out and marched in the streets, joined by college students and others, and occupied all three floors of the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda.

The following is from an interview Sunsara Taylor recently did with some of Tony Robinson’s close friends and one of his cousins.

"We created a Facebook event, invited over 3,000 people…"

Sunsara Taylor: Can you talk a little about how you felt when you heard the news, how you found out, and what this has meant to you and other people?

T: I was with an organization, a nationwide dance team which follows the practices of African-American Greek life, but it’s not a sorority or fraternity, but it follows some of the practices. And the night that he got killed, the people that are already in the organization had my phone so I did not know that he got shot, and we did not go to sleep the whole night, so we were up the whole night, didn’t sleep. I was physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted and by the time we were done which is like 6 am in the morning, that’s when I finally got my phone back.

I see all these posts on Facebook, all these text messages, a couple phone calls, like Tony got shot and killed, like, I’m like what, like I couldn’t even cry, at that point because I was just physically drained from the night, ya know, and like the whole day, like after 6 am, like the whole day I was, I was just basically in shock like I couldn’t cry just because I hadn’t slept the whole night and I hadn’t slept throughout the day either because I had an event to volunteer at for International Women’s Day. So I was volunteering at the event, and like at the back of my mind, like I’m just thinking about Tony, and like, just thinking about like, what, just still in shock basically. And a girl that was at the International Women’s Day did a poem about Tony, and like I really wanted to cry, but it was like my body wasn’t letting me because I was just, I had zero percent of energy like within me and I knew like it was just not coming out ya know.

And that night was the vigil…and right when I got there once I held the candle and everybody started talking, I just started bawling my eyes out. I went there with my other friends who's also helping me in Madison with everything, and next thing ya know I look to the left and she’s crying too and I was continuously crying and crying and crying. And it was just so hard for me but at the same time those were the tears that were held back that whole time. And then when Tony’s best friend approached me…he was like, T, you have to get the University of Wisconsin Madison involved, and I was just like I got you. And when I said I got you he hugged me and we just started crying again.

Then me and my friend...went into one of the dens in my dorm hall and we created a Facebook event, invited over 3,000 people to UW Madison at Bascom Hill, which is like one of the historical buildings on campus. So we went there and then we led the march and we had the students come out, all these advisors—my scholarship advisor was there, my professors were there for like three of my classes, and I didn’t even know that word had spread out that far, ya know. I was only expecting to get the people that said that they were going to come on the Facebook event and then I had contacted the high school, and like the YGB organization in Madison and then they said, “oh well we’re meeting at the capitol at this time and doing various…” and yeah it was like back to back action, in my opinion.

Madison, WI, March 9Thousands of students pack the State Capitol rotunda to demand justice for Tony Robinson, Madison, Wisconsin, March 9. AP photo

“I was with him that night…”

J: Wow this is hard, but um, the night he died, on March 6, I was with him that night, I was with him five minutes prior to the incident. We were all talking about going to our cousin's house for his birthday, and he told us he would meet us there, so we decided to go to the game before, and we stopped at the gas station, you know, to get some snacks, and we see Tony walking across the street to the gas station. So me and his cousin got to the car and approached him and they were talking about the game and everything, and we were joking around. And then we all go upstairs, go hang out for a couple of minutes…

We go back out and we see a whole bunch of cops. And as we approached the house the police stopped us and actually told us we can’t go any farther, that we had to turn around and I asked what was going on…  And then we were like, well we left our cousin here five minutes ago and we want to know if he’s alright, or if he’s still here. They couldn’t tell us anything and then we seen the ambulance pull off. And then after that we was like, alright let’s just go. We got in the car and I kept telling myself he’s in the back of that ambulance, he’s in the back of that, he’s in the back of that, he’s going to the hospital. So we go to the house, where our aunties and stuff are and everyone’s crying, and I’m like, what’s going on and they shot Tony. And I was like, I just broke down at the door and then like I kept blaming myself, because like I was there with him, and like we coulda brung him with, but he wanted to be alone, and I feel guilt…

Then on Sunday I heard about the march they were having on Monday, the UW students were holding… And on Monday we led a protest, we helped lead it up to the Capitol, and then we went down the city council meeting and we talked to the mayor. After we talked to the mayor it was like, as we’re writing chalk around in the streets and me and one of Tony’s closest friends, we just hugged each other in the middle and started bawling, and we just let out all our anger and pain. And we protested for about another three days…

“Doing the right thing… On the right path”

Learn more and get involved HERE.

ST: What happened is unforgiveable, it’s absolutely unforgiveable. And the stealing of his life and the pain that caused to so many people is not something that should ever be forgotten or ever be forgiven. I do want to ask though, cuz there’s a pain involved but then also something very powerful  happened. You know I saw the video of Tony’s grandmother who was very strong at that vigil… She said people have to stand up against what happened to Tony, and we have to stand up against the killing of Black youth by police all over this country. And you guys did something that actually really inspired people all over this country.

J: The effect on that was, it was amazing. It was like just picturing our voice to be heard and that we’re making a statement for something we believe in and that we’re fighting for what we believe—that we want justice and we want it now. And to get those many people to come out and support it and to put that together, it felt like a huge accomplishment. And we felt like we were doing the right thing, on the right path. We didn’t want a violent protest cuz that’s what they want, they want a reason, and we didn’t wanna give them a reason. So we did a silent protest and we marched and to see those many people was amazing.

T: For me, it felt like all those people there, regardless that they knew him or not, was Tony Robinson… He got us telepathically or something, through our minds—like, you need to stand up, this is not okay, you know. And for me, just, seeing all of those kids, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, alumni, thousands, adults, little children, babies in carriages... I was astonished, you know, I never seen this many people come out and, diverse, diverse, a diverse group of people, white, Black, Hispanic, Asian…

“April 14—I wanna do this every day!”

ST: I understand that when you were in the streets doing these protests that you met some of the people talking about April 14 and the national shut down. I wonder what attracted you to that.

T: Well, they approached me, during the march—we did a silent vigil, just a candle lighting at the Capitol and then they approached me again. And when they explained it, they just said that they were from Atlanta and they were on a tour around the country just to get more people involved with the movement, and they explained the brief statement about what it meant to shut down April 14—and I’m thinking like I wanna do this every day! I was thinking like, can we shut down every day. And they were like, one step at a time, so I was more than willing to, you know, get on board. Just getting this brief information about it, I was already interested. And for me it was just like, networking, and just kind of connect more people to what we had already started in terms of like UW, and YGB, and all the high schools.

ST: Okay. And how does the idea strike you? Of shutting down the whole country, not just one city, not just against one killing, but the whole epidemic of murder by police needs to be stopped, and people across the country shutting it down.

J: Well shutting down the whole country, when I first heard it, I was like wow that’s nuts. But then at the same time, as I sat down and I thought about it, I thought that this is actually a good idea, cuz like it shows that not only we’re fighting…but we’re not going to stop until we see justice. Until we see what we want to see, until we see the changes, and to make it even bigger, to make the statement more wide, not just one state, one city doing it, it’s the whole country like, enough is enough, people are finally speaking up and speaking their minds and I believe,  I believe, it’s gonna work. Yeah the kids can do it, yeah, five schools can do it—well, it won’t mean anything if it’s five kids, but if we have the whole country to worry about and then the whole country does it, it’s like the President gets involved, and something could be done.


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.