Mahnker Dahnweih the community power building coordinator for Freedom Inc., began the conference by laying out the three organizations’ demands– defunding the police, releasing all incarcerated Black people from jail and community control over the police.
Dahnweih then read a statement created by all three orgs explaining that they will continue to demand justice for, “all slain Black people throughout the African diaspora.”
“The antiblack media, elected officials and some community leaders are using the events of last night to divide our community, to criminalize Black youth while holding us as an example of peaceful protest,” Dahnweih said. “Changing the narrative as a matter of convenience… while avoiding accountability for the violence bestowed on Black bodies at the hands of the state.”
Sawyer Johnson a member of the Party for Socialism, then said that while Madison, “paints itself as a liberal hub” this masks its deeper issues. Johnson the fact that while only 5.5.% of Dane County’s residents are Black, they make up half of its incarcerated population, is a form of white supremacy.
Bianca Gomez, the Gender Justice Coordinator for Freedom Inc. then called on the Madison Police Department to fire Matt Kenny, the officer who shot and killed Tony Robinson five years ago.
M. Adams, co- executive director of Freedom Inc., spoke about how her work has informed her view of the current protests in Madison.
“My work in sexual violence and domestic violence over the last ten years has taught me that you cannot judge a victime by the way they fight back,” Adams said. “If you are Black you understand that part of the terror of the culture of this society is that they think cement is worth more than you life.”
At the conclusion of the conference Brandi Grayson, founder and CEO of Urban Triage, said that the press conference would kick off a week of action, in solidarity with the larger national week of action.
Leaders then asked the crowd to donate to the FreeThe350BailFund, a fund paying the bail for arrested Madison protestors.
After the conference the crowd gathered behind a banner that read, “Black Lives Matter.” They began to march towards the Capitol chanting, “who am I? George Floyd!”
The Crowd of around 100 people marched past the Capitol, turning onto John Nolen Dr. They marched in the street, as they emerged from beneath the Monona Terrace parking garage they moved into traffic.
Cars honked as the protestors moved between them chanting, “if we don’t get it, shut it down!”
The crowd grew in number as it marched, by the time they reached the intersection of John Nolen Dr. and North Shore Dr. at about 1 p.m., there were over 200 people.
The crowd stopped here, blocking traffic over the bridge. One protestor announced, “we just shut down the busiest intersection in Madison.”
Protesters in cars formed a barricade between the crowd and oncoming traffic. They then held a die-in where Black participants and participants of color laid on the ground while white protestors encircled them for protection.
As rush hour approached, Grayson told protestors they had a choice– leave now and regroup tomorrow or stay and stop rush hour. After taking a vote based on fists raised in the air, it was decided– the crowd would stay through rush hour.
Pizza, granola bars, water, apples, masks, hand sanitizer and sunscreen was quickly distributed to those in attendance as some sat down and socialized while others began to dance to The Cha Cha Slide, The Cupid Shuffle and more.
Leaders said they would not leave until Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway came down. By around 7 p.m., she did.
Conway began by saying that the city is moving forward on hiring a police auditor position and that she hopes the protestors will help them identify good candidates.
Conway said she is also collaborating with Black leaders on developing a police oversight committee and is working to move funding to Black-led organizations.
The crowd then dissolved into chants of, “fire Matt Kenny!”
When protestors asked if Conway would– end the curfew, fire Matt Kenny and do something about the police, Conway said that she could not end the curfew yet, did not have the power to fire police officers and was working with the police on de-escalation efforts.
This response drew criticism from the crowd. Grayson said that if Conway does not have the power to make these changes she must use the power she does have to influence those who do.
“What we’re going to demand of our mayor is to write a letter, make a note, that you are in support of releasing all Black bodies from solitary confinement,” Grayson said. “She is going to put her money where her motherfucking mouth is.”
The crowd encouraged Conway to leave shortly after this saying she, “had some work to do.”
A little after 7 p.m., once rush hour had ended, protestors marched back towards the Capitol, after shutting down traffic on John Nolen for over six hours.