Madison students occupy the state capitol Monday, March 9, to speak out on the death of Tony Robinson.
More than a thousand protesters packed into the Capitol rotunda Monday morning to protest the death of Tony Robinson, the unarmed teen shot and killed by a Madison police officer last Friday.
Most of the demonstrators were high school and middle school students who walked out of their classes. Some were UW-Madison students, who held a rally at Bascom Hall before marching to the Capitol.
"We want to be heard," said Kayla Haynes, a 17-year-old East High School student. "It's beautiful how everybody came together."
The songs, chants, signs and banners repeated the messages from similar protests over the weekend, calling for an end to police killing of young black males and consequences for the officer who pulled the trigger.
"If we get justice, maybe [the killing] will stop," said Iyanna Snowton, a 17-year-old East High School student.
Krystyn Jones, a 14-year-old Memorial High School student added: "It's just happening too much."
Those attending the protest called the youth demonstration powerful and inspiring, but Monday's protest was also underscored by deep grief over the loss of a peer whose circle of friends extended to multiple local schools. He was a graduate of Sun Prairie High School, but had previously attended Georgia O'Keefe Middle School, in the neighborhood where he died.
Many of the protesters wore black to symbolize their loss.
"It's hard for me not to cry," said Siron Offord, a 16-year-old East High School student. "But I have to keep smiling."
Following the Capitol protest, the demonstration moved to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where marchers sat in the street and heard remarks from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. When he said "the death of Tony Robinson," the group shouted back at him.
"Murder!" they yelled.
Later in the afternoon, Robinson's uncle, Turin Carter, spoke on behalf of his family at a press conference held in front of the Williamson Street house where his nephew was shot.
He spoke of the pain he felt knowing that Robinson died on the same block where the family had lived for years and called for reform in the "universal problems with law enforcement," emphasizing the "systematic targeting of young black males."
Carter spoke of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black child who was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012 and of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by police in 2014.
"It's surreal to realize that my nephew is now a hashtag," Carter said.
But Carter emphasized that the family does not want to promote an anti-police message. With great composure, Carter said he appreciates law enforcement and trusts officials to handle the investigation "with integrity."
"We want no further tension with police officers," Carter told reporters and community members. "We need to change our mindset on the police."
Carter also urged the public not to pass judgment about Robinson, who, according to court records, pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2014. Some media outlets have also suggested that Robinson was involved in a paternity lawsuit, which Carter denied.
"Tony Robinson Jr. is not a father, nor has he been involved in any paternity suit," Carter said.