‘Our community is wounded’: City officials address violent acts in Downtown Madison

MADISON, Wis.– City officials addressed the violence that took place on State Street and around the city following a peaceful protest on Saturday.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway clarified the acts of violence were separate from the “Justice For George” protest, which she called “successful, justified and peaceful.” The organized protest dispersed at the State Capitol just after 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The acts of violence began in Downtown Madison about one hour after the protest ended, according to officials.

“This was not a case of a protest turning violent. This was a case of a protest successfully concluding peacefully, and then a relatively small group of people coming in to cause violence and property damage,” Rhodes-Conway said.

While Rhodes-Conway said she doesn’t approve of the violent acts, behind those acts is a stronger message.

“I’m not here to tell anyone how to express their anger, particularly not black people who have been harmed for centuries and are legitimately angry,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I am here to support black leadership in our community. I am here to condemn provocateurs and people inciting violence and trying to divide us, and I am here to call on everyone to work together to build a more just society, because we will never not be able to say that all live matter until black lives matter.”

Rhodes-Conway called for the community to come together to heal, adding that racism and injustice does not bring healing.

“If you are angry about property damage, be more angry about the unjustified deaths of black people. Property can be repaired, but we can’t bring people back to life,” Rhodes-Conway said. “If you are angry about looting, be more angry about the systemic, disinvestment in black communities over decades and centuries. If you are angry because you want those who broke windows, and trashed sidewalk cafes, and turned over planters and looted last night to face consequences, be more angry that the people who kill black people all too often walk free.”

Rhodes-Conway thanked volunteers for stepping up to clean State Street this morning, as well as the organizers of fundraising efforts for downtown businesses.

Rhodes-Conway responded to a tweet from Speaker Robin about the acts of violence Saturday night.

“This is inexcusable. Citizens in Madison and Dane County should be outraged that elected officials are allowing these acts to happen without penalty,” Vos tweeted.

“The thing we should be outraged about is when black people die without consequence. That is what we should be outraged about,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Madison Common Council President Sheri Carter said there needs to be action and Madison can be the city to get the ball rolling.

“That violence last night brought us together today,” Carter said. “We’re going to remain together because it has to stop.”

Carter is asking people to raise their voices through calling, letter writing and emailing officials.