Crowds gathered at the Capitol for the Police Free Schools March organized by Freedom Inc and Freedom Youth Squad, Thursday afternoon.
This march came after Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced Madison city and school district leaders agreed to end the contract for police officers stationed in schools, a decision to be voted on by the Common Council Monday.
Freedom Inc Community Power Building Coordinator Mahnker Dahnweih said Freedom Inc. and the Youth Squad have been pushing to remove police from schools for four years.
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Dahnweih said the money currently being spent on these police contracts would be better used for improved curriculum, facilities and youth support.
Bianca Gomez, Freedom Inc’s gender justice coordinator, then listed off the demands of the police free schools campaign — no cops in schools and the creation of accountability practices for adults who call the police on young people, investment in youth of color, community control and transformative justice.
“Our kids need schools that use transformative justice where our kids can have control over what their schools look like,” Gomez said.
Organizers told the crowd to gather behind the youth holding banners, and said the youth have been the leaders of this movement and deserve respect.
As protesters began to march, one man stood on the platform where the Forward statue used to stand and chanted, “All lives matter.” The crowd responded by chanting, “Black lives matter.”
Protesters then moved down King Street to the Department of Public Instruction building.
Here, youth leaders shared why they wanted police out of schools and said it harms relationships with students.
White “co-conspirators” were then instructed to form a perimeter around Black youth and youth of color as they lowered the flag pole outside the DPI.
Organizers added a yellow flag that read, “Police free schools” and a black flag with an image of a crossed out pig on it to the pole.
Before the crowd dispersed, Dahnweih told protesters to attend a community meeting Friday afternoon at Freedom Inc’s headquarters and to sign the petition demanding Mayor Conway defund the Madison Police Department.
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Dahnweih emphasized the significance of the removal of police from Madison schools, highlighting how hard youth leaders worked to get this change.
“It has been four long years of organizing for these youth,” Dahnweih said. “It has been four long years of showing up to ad hoc meetings, of showing up to school board meetings, of showing up at city county meetings and getting laughed at, getting disrespected, getting booed and guess what, y’all? We f*cking won, y’all. We got cops out of schools!”