Madison residents and members of YGB hold a "Black Lives Matter" banner in front of City-County Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Madison.
Members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition continued their presence not just on the streets but at local government meetings Tuesday night.
Several people went to the Dane County Public Protection and Judiciary Committee to speak out against 2014 RES-556, Section 4,which would invest in the renovation or building of a new Dane County jail. The group has long been opposed to the proposal. But its efforts have found new resonance after the killing of unarmed, 19-year-old Tony Robinson last week by a Madison police officer.
Eric Upchurch, a member of YGB, laid out demands for the committee, while also saying they would use the forum to express their grief and desire to end state violence. "To be silent on issues that some people might call unrelated is to be silent in the presence of the same state violence that killed our brother and son," he said.
Upchurch demanded that the county abandon the proposal to renovate or build a new jail, instead investing in community initiatives. He also called for an end to solitary confinement. In addition to countywide changes, Upchurch called on the county and Madison Police Department to cover the costs of the services required by Robinson's family, and to fire and charge Officer Matt Kenny.
"Our hearts are bleeding for the family of Tony Robinson," Upchurch said. "We are demanding that the mayor, the police chief, and the county pay for all of the services required by the family. We feel that they have perpetuated state violence to our community and they should pay for it, they should be held accountable."
Supv. Sheila Stubbs asked that the resolution be removed from the meeting's agenda out of respect to the community and Robinson's family. But the committee still heard more than 35 people speak against the jail and the striking racial disparity in Dane County. According to the Race to Equity report,in 2012, the black-white arrest disparity in Dane County was 8 to 1, almost four times the national average. In the same year, only 4.8% of Dane County's adult male population identified as black, yet African Americans adults made up 43% of new prison placements.
Nneka Akubeze, Executive Director of the United Council of UW students, spoke about the crucial role board members play in ending state violence.
"As members of the County Board of Supervisors I hope that you are not oblivious to the fact that you have a direct role in state violence," Akubeze said. "There are practical reforms we can make to end police and state violence. You are responsible for acting as caretakers of the community and if you chose to move forward without striking the investment in long-term policing then you're failing the community."
Fifteen-year old Shaneece Taylor told the crowd she didn't want to be another statistic. "Creating a new jail is just a prediction in another statistic…building a new jail is showing me that you're trying to predict my future," Taylor said.
Several people spoke of Madison's reputation as liberal and progressive while asserting that it's one of the worst places for African Americans to live.
UW-Madison student Michaela Johnke said that she moved here under the façade that Madison is a liberal place. "We have been lied to because we cannot get past this idea of color blindness," Johnke said. "We need to bring race to the table, we need to talk about it, we need to make it visible. Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow."
In his closing remarks, Upchurch turned to the committee asking them to use their power to put practices and programs in place that divert people from police contact.
"If you do not do that, and instead you decide to invest in jails, then you are forgoing solving the problem for perpetuating the problem."
The committee will revisit the jail proposal at a later date.