Madison protesters march following Ferguson decision

Crowd marches from UW campus to jail Tuesday afternoon

A few hundred people staged a peaceful protest outside the Dane County Public Safety building to oppose the decision not to indict a Missouri police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen in August.

Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

The gathering hosted by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison chanted “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot” while holding signs saying “black lives matter.”

“Let’s be clear, we are not violent,” protester Eric Upchurch said. “But our feelings and our souls are on fire.”

Organizers said events in Ferguson bring to light inequalities in Madison, and they made a list of demands for change, including stopping any plans or discussion around a new Dane County Jail.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, who watched the protest Tuesday, said while racial issues need to be addressed, there’s a misconception about a jail proposal.

“We’re not looking to build a new jail, we’re looking to replace an antiquated and dangerous jail that currently houses 500 individuals and results in individuals being housed in solitary confinement every day,” Mahoney said.

Dane County Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson said the local protest was important for leaders to see.

“I’m glad to see these young people’s voices are being heard,” Johnson said. “I asked the sheriff and police chief to come out here and hear what they have to say, and I think it’s important we listen to how they are feeling.”

The protest, which moved into the intersection of Doty and Fairchild streets, took a sentiment that started in Ferguson and brought it home.

“We are standing in the middle of the street because we are hurting and we’re tired of hurting,” protester Brandi Grayson said. “Every week we will plan an action until our demands are made. We will no longer be quiet.”

Mahoney said task forces and other organizations in the county are working to address and pinpoint racial disparities, and he hopes those efforts can help make change in the county.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin released a statement Tuesday saying, “There is an understandable feeling of discontent in the community, and there will not doubt be protests. I stand with our community leaders in encouraging peaceful demonstrations.”

Jail concerns caused some of the hundreds of protestors to take their frustration from the streets to inside the City-County Building, where they staged a sit-in in front of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee.

“I don’t think we should build this jail with this money,” one protestor said, with much emotion in her voice.

“We are in trouble if we build another jail,” another protestor added.

In all, 40 signed up to speak when the committee accepted public comment, focusing on one of their main demands.

“That $8 million needs to be allocated to resources and places for the homeless, for the mentally ill and the homeless” Grayson said. “We’re locking up people because they’re homeless. We’re locking people up because they have PTSD, and schizophrenia. Something’s wrong with that.”

The Young and Gifted Black Coalition point to the Race To Equity Report, which shows out of Dane County’s six percent black population, about half of them are incarcerated.

Grayson said young leaders plan more attention grabbing tactics every week to try and convince leaders to invest in fixing systemic problems.