Black Lives Matter protests continued in Madison Friday night with a youth-organized celebration at the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Starting Friday afternoon, protestors gathered in James Madison Park for a birthday party organized by Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage, local community organizations. The birthday in question was Breonna Taylor’s, a black woman killed in her own Louisville home by police in mid-March. Taylor would have been 27 years old Friday.

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Organizers set up food trucks, a DJ, art stations and more in the park. Many attendees drew art on the sidewalk in honor of Taylor, and according to coverage from The Capitol Times, organizers created a memorial to Taylor, from which some flowers were set afloat on Lake Mendota by a paddleboarder.

Starting around 9:30 p.m., protestors gathered back at the Capitol for a night of speakers, chanting, dancing and celebration of the movement. Organizers set up a spread of food, water and other resources off to the side. Below the Capitol steps, protestors set up a candlelight memorial.

To kick things off, organizers chanted “say her name,” to which the crowd responded “Breonna Taylor!” The group then sang “Happy Birthday” to Taylor.

One speaker said the protests nationwide have advanced the Black Lives Matter movement ⁠— in the past few days, Michael Jordan donated $100 million to Black Lives Matter-affiliated organizations, a widely-successful online campaign has pushed authorities to reopen Taylor’s case and Minneapolis plans to ban police chokeholds like the kind used to kill George Floyd and more.

“We’re gonna create change through policy, we’re gonna create change through education,” one organizer said.

The protestors kicked off some dancing at the foot of the Capitol, playing songs from Black artists. At 11:45 p.m., they did the “Cha Cha Slide.”

At one point, organizers reminded the crowd that while tonight was a celebration, it still had a purpose ⁠— to advance the Black Lives Matter movement. Those who didn’t understand or care to actively participate in the movement should leave, the organizer said.

“We’re here to celebrate Breonna Taylor’s life,” the organizer said. “But this is not Coachella. This is not an influencer opportunity … this is not a trend. This is real. This is what I experience every day.”

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One speaker talked about the reopening of police brutality cases.

The speaker told the crowd to fight for Madison to reopen Tony Robinson’s case ⁠— Madison Police Department officer Matt Kenny killed Robinson, an unarmed 19-year-old Black man in 2015. Kenny still works for MPD.

“Tony Robinson was in our community — we need to reopen this case,” the speaker said. “Justice for Tony.”

Another initiative the organizers supported for implementation in Madison and beyond is called “Breonna’s law.” This law, according to organizers, would all but ban “no-knock warrants,” which according to Cornell Law School, are search warrants where police don’t have to notify anyone inside the house before breaking in.

To obtain this type of warrant, a police chief or other high-ranking officer would have to fill out a longer application requiring more justification for the warrant’s necessity. The law takes Taylor’s name because the police who entered her house and killed her had a no-knock warrant.

According to local media in Kentucky, Louisville’s Metro Council Safety Committee voted to unanimously approve the law in Louisville, Taylor’s hometown, Wednesday.

The protests are scheduled to continue this weekend and into next week, organizers said. Next week, organizers said they’ll be focusing each day on a police brutality case for a “week of cases.”

“We carry generations of pain and trauma,” one protestor said. “All the shit we’re doing right now is healing us.”

Breonna Taylor’s name painted on a boarded window on the Veteran’s Museum across from the Capitol.
Mary Magnuson/The Badger Herald