Nearly a thousand UW–Madison students and Madisonians gathered at the top of Bascom Hill Sunday night, despite the intense fog and impending doom of finals week.
They gathered to protest police brutality against people of color and to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of police violence and racism. The crowd chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter,” two slogans that have become rallying cries for protestors upset about the killings of unarmed black men, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by white police officers.
“Don’t be afraid to fill up this area,” Deshawn McKinney, a second year student and the event’s organizer, told the gathering crowd at the top of Bascom Hill, as protesters climbed over chains separating walking paths from the lawn.
Organizers spoke for about half an hour. One student, a white ally, spoke specifically to other white allies, saying “this movement is black lives matter, not all lives matter,” referencing two phrases that have become popular tags on internet discussions about recent events. Organizers also spoke about their motivation in putting the demonstration together, saying “there is no other place on campus that has the strength that we have now.” McKinney responded to concerns that the protests would disrupt students studying for final exams, saying “this campus is ours as well, and we won’t wait till next time.”
The crowd then marched past East Campus Mall and the Memorial Union, taking a roundabout way to Helen C. White Library, chanting "no justice, no peace," and carrying a large sign with the words "black lives matter."
At the library, the protesters staged a peaceful “die-in," provoking curiosity from library users, but without causing much disruption.
“Tonight, something will change for you,” McKinney promised the protesters before they entered the library.
"What changed for me was the knowledge that there is an active community who's willing to affect change at this school," said Ari Brown, a freshman at UW. "The protest started with over a thousand people and students joined as we marched through the streets––for me, that was easily the greatest feeling."