‘Black life was extinguished before our eyes’: Wisconsin leaders, municipal chiefs condemn George Floyd’s killing

MADISON, Wis. — State leaders and municipal police chiefs in Wisconsin issued statements Friday condemning the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minnesota earlier this week.

On Monday, an officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes in a video that has since gone viral across the Internet. Floyd is seen gradually becoming motionless as the officer, Derek Chauvin, and three other officers ignored bystanders’ shouts to get off Floyd. Floyd was pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital in an incident that began when police responded to a report of a man passing a counterfeit bill in a grocery store on Memorial Day.

On Friday, a Minnesota prosecutor charged Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the restraint death.

Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement that Floyd’s death was inhumane, and not an anomaly.

“Earlier this week, another Black life was extinguished before our eyes. His name was George Floyd,” Evers said. “He was 46. His life matters and his family deserves justice … We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. Frustration and anger about systemic injustices are always justified.”

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a statement that Floyd’s life was stolen from his family and his community.

“We must recognize that, especially in our state, acts of systemic violence are happening every day, and they include more than just fatal police violence. The poverty, poor environmental conditions, and inequitable access to health care experienced by Black communities and other communities of color are a form of systemic violence, too.

“Those who are protesting this injustice are doing so in order to save this nation, and they should be protected. To see a city burn on the outside is devastating but hardly compares to the implosion brought by systemic inequity and injustice. Like internal bleeding, you may not see it, but the outcome will be catastrophic if left untreated.

“People are hurting. People are tired. We are done dying. I am tired of addressing the disregard for Black life in this country.

“Those who question the frustration and anger of communities of color must ask themselves why they are not frustrated, why they are not angered by the injustices carried out in their name.

“People want to live in a world free of hate. We want decency, true justice, equity, equality, and opportunity. These are all worth fighting for, and as Lieutenant Governor, I remain committed to helping lead that fight.”


Protests against Floyd’s death have taken place in several cities in the United States, including a peaceful rally and march in Milwaukee on Friday. A Facebook group for a protest planned at the Capitol in Madison Saturday had more than 4,600 people interested as of Friday afternoon.

Barnes asked people seeing protests taking place not “just watch, but to speak out and to act. The idea that things should be better, not worse, is worth demonstration.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul called Floyd’s death “torture and murder, under color of law” in a statement Friday.

“What America witnessed happening to George Floyd in Minneapolis was not, in any true sense of the phrase, law enforcement,” Kaul said. “Justice demands that those involved in this depraved crime be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

On Friday, two municipal police chiefs in Wisconsin spoke in statements on social media to their communities, sharing their thoughts on Floyd’s death,  and publicly denouncing the tactics seen in the images leading up to Floyd’s death.

Beloit police chief David Zibolski called the events that led up to Floyd’s death “horrifying, heartbreaking and deeply disturbing.”

He said Floyd’s life mattered, and his life was ended too soon.

“I publicly denounce the actions of the officers involved in this incident,” Zibolski said. “In no circumstance would the compression of someone’s neck be an appropriate use of force in an attempt to place them into custody.”

Janesville Chief David Moore said the video of Floyd’s arrest showed criminal behavior by the officer.

“What we witnessed (in the video) was not some type of questionable police activity. What we witnessed was a crime,” Moore said.

He added that JPD’s tactical training doesn’t allow officers to apply pressure around the neck.

Both chiefs also discussed training and tactics in place at each department that act counter to the type of violence they described in the video of Floyd’s arrest.

On Thursday, in response to Floyd’s death, Madison 365 hosted a virtual town hall with some area law enforcement. In that event, the law enforcement leaders also addressed their use-of-force policies.  Dane County mother Jaquelyn Hunt, who was also participating in the Town Hall, was critical of hearing law enforcement lean on the same policy discussions, because she said they aren’t working.

“It sounds like more of the same,” she said. “They protect themselves around the practices and policies they have in place. That is not going to continue to work in our society. It doesn’t look like the policies and procedures you put in place 50 years ago.”

On Wednesday, Chief of Fitchburg police Chad Brecklin and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney responded to seeing the video, calling it disturbing and unacceptable.

On Thursday, the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association also released a joint statement condemning what they saw on the video.