Protests are continuing in Wisconsin this weekend, marking two weeks of public outcry against systemic racism and police violence following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Early Saturday morning, several hundred health care providers and advocates rallied at the state Capitol in Madison. The Student National Medical Association chapter at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health organized the event, called "White Coats 4 Black Lives."
Organizers said the event was a call for change "to end the public health crisis of racism in America."
Several protesters carried signs calling for increased access to health care, while speakers, dressed in white coats, spoke to the attendees about a range of concerns. They asked others to understand own implicit biases and lift voices of the black community to reduce racism in health care.
Dr. Patrick Lee, a third-year surgery resident, said he is the son of former police officer. Speaking at the event, he called for diversifying medicine and law enforcement.
He said most black boys have encounters with police by age 8, according to research. Recalling his own interactions with police, he said, "I'm not here to vilify police."
Dr. David Feldstein, associate professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said the coronavirus pandemic highlights how enduring racism has impacted health care.
"COVID-19 has made so clear disparities in healthcare as we see more people of color dying from the disease," Feldstein said.
Dr. Jasmine Zapata told crowd the video of Floyd's death and the things that Floyd said to the Minneapolis police officer who put a knee on his neck resonated with many in the medical field.
"When he said he couldn’t breathe, every doctor heard him," she said.
Rosalyn Johnson, 18, made signs for her mother — who is a doctor — and father, both of whom attended the rally. The sign contains all the names of black lives lost to police violence last 10 years.
Johnson said that she "felt like I needed to do more" after attending her first Madison rally.
After hearing from speakers, protesters ended the event with a march around the State Capitol for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, representing how long former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck before he died. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.
More Demonstrations Planned In Milwaukee
In Milwaukee, protests and community events were scheduled around the city on Saturday.
Around a dozen artists gathered at Freedom Grocery in the Harambee neighborhood on Saturday morning to paint a mural of black leaders and activists, including Vel R. Phillips, Thurgood Marshall and Assata Shakur.
Nolita Jones, a special education teacher at Oliver Wendell Holmes School, painted Walter McMillian, a wrongfully convicted man whose case is dramatized in the film "Just Mercy."
"I'm just hoping that people will be inspired. Most people walk around and they don't do as much as they can do, and I wanted to show my students, really, that you can get out there," Jones said.
Nearly 100 people gathered for a sit-in event at King Solomon Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon. Organizers said the demonstration was for those who aren't able to march or are concerned about COVID-19 because of their health.
Speaking at the event, the Rev. Greg Lewis, president of Pastors United and Souls to the Polls, said older members of the community wanted to show support for protestors and their concern over recent events.
"We want to make sure our young folks understand, just because we got a little age on us and we haven’t been out on the streets, doesn’t mean we don’t care," Lewis said.
Organizers played a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop."
Terry Wiggins, who is almost 70 years old, said the sit-in protest felt more accessible to her.
"I thought it was one I could do, as opposed to one that people are marching many, many miles ... I probably couldn’t keep up with the young people on long, long legs," Wiggins said.
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Families and educators attended a "Wee Chalk Your Walk" event on Saturday afternoon, writing messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and black educators on neighborhood sidewalks in chalk.
Organizers said the group planned to make protest signs before marching by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s house and the Bay View neighborhood.
A "No Justice, No Peace" protest had been scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at Carver Park. Another protest at the City of South Milwaukee Administration Building had been planned for 3 p.m.
Editor's note: Stay tuned for continuing coverage. Shamane Mills, Madeline Fox and Hope Kirwan contributed to this story.