Protest prompts committee to include jail funding in agenda

Young jail protesters say they're not going anywhere
Protest prompts committee to include jail funding in agenda

Under a protester shutdown threat, the Dane County Public Protection & Judiciary Committee decided Tuesday night to add discussing county jail funding renovations back to their agenda.

“I put it on the agenda because it makes it much easier,” PP&J Chair Paul Rusk said. “If it’s on the agenda we can actually have a conversation.”

As they had done two weeks prior, about 75 Young Gifted and Black Coalition members staged another PP&J sit-in, demanding the $8 million proposed funding be reallocated to resources and initiatives led by black community leaders, along with the immediate release of 350 black people charged with crimes committed to survive because they were living in poverty.

“This would end the disproportionate incarceration of black people, and stop the need for renovations due to safety,” numerous coalition members repeatedly testified.

To emphasize their point others testified used recordings of Eric Garner’s last words moments before his death in New York earlier this year.

After Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” the crowd chanted back in unison, “This has to stop. I can’t breathe.”

Coalition members say until their demands are met, the community should get used to hearing their voices.

“The truth is we’re not going anywhere,” Young Gifted and Black Coalition leader Brandi Grayson said.

The coalition is also demanding an end to solitary confinement, which is what Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney has said a majority of the money will be used to end.

Members say funds should instead be allocated to programs, such as anti-poverty measures, aimed at keeping people out of jail.

The Tuesday sit-in was the Young Gifted and Black Coalition’s third event. Two weeks ago they also sat in and testified during that PP&J meeting. Last Friday, they momentarily stopped traffic to draw attention to their cause.