Local leaders react to Ferguson decision

Koval, Johnson commit to nonviolence mission in Madison
Local leaders react to Ferguson decision
Michael Johnson and MPD Chief Mike Koval watch Ferguson grand jury decision in WISC-TV newsroom.

Local Madison leaders reacted Monday night to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict office Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson intently watched the news Monday night in the WISC-TV newsroom.

Johnson, who spoke with African-American leaders earlier Monday to make a plea to those he said feel a great sense of injustice.

“There will be people who feel that way, so all I’m saying is when you see right after this decision military gear come out as soon as he made his statement, this is not the right response to the community,” Johnson said. “That’s why I wanted to make sure tonight while I was here that I was here with our local police chief because it’s important in terms of the tone we set right here in Madison.”

Koval urged people in Madison to move forward as a community, “to be respectful but also to give voice, from a civic standpoint, of how we feel the system is working or in this case might be working for people of color.”

When Johnson spoke with leaders Monday he sent a message to young black men specifically.

“Michael Brown, both his mother and his father, have asked us all to make sure we all respond with peace, that we voice our concerns and don’t go out in our communities and destroy them,” Johnson said. “I want young black men and young black women in this community to understand what happened today.”

Koval and Johnson are committed to a nonviolent mission.

“You do have the right to assemble. You do have the right to express dissent. We don’t want to impede it, we don’t want to deny it, we don’t want to do anything but foster it,” Koval said. “This can be a win-win proposition where the First Amendment can be exercised and also the people and the property can be respected.”

Members of Madison’s Young, Gifted and Black Coalition also responded to the decision Monday night.

The organization said members plan to protest Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. outside the Dane County Jail, against both the happenings in Ferguson and the racial disparities they say exist in Madison.

“It has everything to do with race,” member Brandi Grayson said of the Ferguson decision. “Until we’re able to have those honest, open dialogues, things will continue to be unbalanced in our country.”

“This is why it’s so important that regardless of what race you are, that we send a message that injustice to anyone’s child is injustice to all of us,” member Kabzuag Vaj said.