Wisconsin public defenders marched Monday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement while voicing their dedication to equality within the criminal justice system.
The march began at the Wisconsin State Public Defenders’ office on South Fairchild Street, where organizers then led protestors around the capital with “Black lives matter” and “This is what democracy looks like” chants. Public defenders then led the group towards the Dane County Sheriff’s office where several speakers read off the names of Black people that have been killed by police.
Dane County Judge Appointee Mario White, along with several public defenders, read out the names and addressed the crowd. As the names were read, protest organizers handed out sheets of paper to the other protesters with the name of one of the victims along with the year and city they were killed in.
“Black skin is not a capital offense and should not be a capital offense,” White said. “As we remember those that we’ve lost … I see our politicians kneel in remembrance of those people, we should also remember to stand up for them — stand up for justice.”
Protestors then marched to the Dane County Courthouse and listened to Yolanda Woodard and Stanley Woodard, longtime public defenders, speak.
Yolonda Woodard led the crowd of protestors in chants like “no more kids in cages,” “no human is illegal” and “Black lives matter.”
“We march — y’all mad,” Yolonda Woodard said. “We sit down — y’all mad. We speak up — y’all mad. We die — you’re silent.”
Stanley Woodard thanked everyone on legal defense teams that work to uphold the legal rights of all defendants — no matter their skin color.
Stanley Woodard told the story of Ernest Lacy, who died in police custody in Milwaukee in 1981. Stanley Woodard said at the time, he was an assistant district attorney, and after the attorney’s office did not charge any officer involved, Woodard quit his job.
“The point of the matter is that this is a struggle, and the struggle continues every single day,” Stanley Woodard said. “My dad told me back when I was a revolutionary … the more things change, the more they stay the same. But if my dad was alive today, I could tell him that a new day has come to this country.”
Stanley Woodard also spoke about the importance of public defenders being on “the frontlines of justice” because public defenders protect citizens’ constitutional rights and make sure the law is applied fairly to everyone they represent.
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After Stanley Woodard’s speech, the crowd kneeled in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck before he died.
Following the moment of silence, protestors marched back to the State Public Defenders’ Building and concluded the protest.