Nearly 100 University of Wisconsin-Madison students held a vigil outside the Kohl Center toward the end of the Duke-Wisconsin basketball game to demonstrate solidarity with victims of police brutality, including Mike Brown, the unarmed teenager who was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, who was choked to death by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo. A Staten Island grand jury ended the criminal case against Pantaleo Wedneday, kicking off mass protests in New York and around the country. The students gathered outside the UW basketball game held signs and stood in silence to pay their respects.
“When I found out about [the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson], I was really feeling like I wanted to get people together, because I felt like a lot of people in Madison who were reeling from that event, but didn’t feel like they had an outlet or community that was visible in that way,” said Eric Dwayne Newble Jr, the organizer of the vigil, in an interview with the Badger Herald.
Participants wrote on various social media sites that they were verbally harassed by spectators and others as they stood in silence with their protest signs. One attendee, Awa Fofana, wrote on a public Facebook post that “I shed tears as I heard ‘hope the fire department [hoses] you down’… my throat swelled as a man yelled ‘you liberals don’t respect the law.’" The fact that such remarks were made in Madison, a supposedly liberal city, shows how much race is still an issue in this country. Police brutality continues to be a daily fact of life for people of color in America, despite what many news sources and politicians would have us believe. The continued lack of charges against the police officers who kill people of color, especially black men, shows that impunity is still the default for such cases. It is becoming obvious that race is one of the defining issues of our time, and we must act to address it.
There is another demonstration scheduled at the South Transfer Point in Madison at 3:30 PM on Friday, December 5.
River Heisler is a first-year student at Brandeis University and an intern with The Progressive.
Image credit: Joey Reuteman