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‘It’s Time For People To Take A Stand’: Protests Against Killing Of George Floyd Continue Across Wisconsin

Several In-Person, Virtual Gatherings Taking Place Wednesday

A protester holds a sign up to law enforcement gathered outside the city of Milwaukee's Municipal Court building on Sunday evening
A protester holds a sign up to law enforcement gathered outside the city of Milwaukee’s Police District One building on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Madeline Fox/WPR

Demonstrations continued across the state Wednesday with protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man killed while in police custody last week.

The Islamic Society of Milwaukee and Islamic Society of Brookfield organized a march for Wednesday afternoon to honor Floyd and other people of color killed by law enforcement. Demonstrators gathered at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and began marching at around 2 p.m.

Sumaya Abdi, 19, co-organized the march and just finished her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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“I want first and foremost for our voices to be heard, and the families of those who’ve lost people to know that we’re here for them as Muslims, as a fellow black person, as the city of Milwaukee, we’re here for them, and we stand for them until they get justice,” Abdi said. “They teach us to respect the police, but if they’re shooting at us, and killing us, how do you expect people to stay peaceful?

Our faith says that the human community is like a body — if one part of the community is hurting, then the whole body is hurting,” Abdi continued. “So if one community is hurting, it doesn’t matter what I believe in or what I wear or what I look like, I’m gonna be there to defend them, because that’s what my religion says: we embody justice, we don’t stay quiet for justice.”

As demonstrators walked, employees from businesses along South Howell Avenue cheered and rose their fists in support.

A woman who asked to be identified as Sara was one of the more than 100 people walking in the peaceful march.

“There is a message that needs to be heard,” Sara, 26, said. “It’s time for people to take a stand, not just post on social media, not just march, but actually take some initiative and start changing their communities from the bottom up. … Something as small as a $20 bill, whether it is forged or not, shouldn’t have led to someone’s death. Jogging shouldn’t have led to someone’s death. Being in your own home shouldn’t lead to someone’s death.”

Sara was one of the more than 100 people walking in the peaceful march in Milwaukee
A woman who wanted to be identified as Sara was one of the more than 100 people walking in the peaceful march Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wis. organized by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and Islamic Society of Brookfield. Madeline Fox/WPR

Mehwish Zaidi also participated in the march. She said she felt it was important to show up for others in the community.

“Just to show our brothers and sisters that we are here, and we are seeing everything and hearing everything, and we’re wanting to be present for everyone and show how we feel about current events,” Zaidi said.

The march was back at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee on the city’s south side shortly after 3:30 p.m. when speeches began. By 4 p.m. it was over and people dispersed.

On the other side of the city, protesters marched from North Oakland Avenue and East Locust Street on the upper east side toward downtown. They chanted “Walk with us” in the street while cars followed and drivers honked in support of the protesters.

Shortly after 6 p.m. protesters had made it to West Wisconsin Avenue, and were heard chanting, “When do we stop? Never! What do we do? Fight!”

By 7:30 p.m. marchers had arrived at Veterans Park, several miles from where they began.

Protesters continued to march around downtown Milwaukee, as demonstrations went on into the night.

On Wednesday evening, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced on Twitter he would not be issuing a curfew for the second night in a row.

Wednesday marks the sixth day of protest in Milwaukee, where police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, though no city-wide curfew was in place. The Milwaukee Police Department said protesters threw rocks and glass at officers.

Demonstrations Span Entire State

Jada Sayles, co-organizer of the memorial, addresses the crowd
Jada Sayles, co-organizer of a memorial for black people killed by police, addresses the crowd at a demonstration at the Wisconsin state Capitol on June 3, 2020. Keni Rosales/WPR

Madison has also seen several days of protest. On Tuesday, protesters met outside the Dane County Jail and called for the release of inmates due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly thereafter, they hung Black Lives Matter signs from their vehicles and headed out on a car caravan, slowing traffic on the Beltline — one of the city’s major arteries. A group of several hundred protesters gathered outside the state Capitol in downtown Madison until late in the evening.

On Wednesday, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County announced it would hire 75 “peacekeepers” for the ongoing demonstrations against Floyd’s death. They made the announcement live on Facebook flanked by city and business leaders, and law enforcement.

Madison-based groups Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage held virtual events Wednesday afternoon and evening, including a live conversation at 6 p.m. about the group’s demands to defund police.

“You cannot be in favor of black lives and also support police. Those are two things that don’t match,” declared Bianca Gomez, Freedom Inc.’s gender justice coordinator, during the group’s online discussion.

Just before 8 p.m., organizers with Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage told demonstrators to head downtown to the intersection of Johnson and State Street. They asked people to bring food and medical kits.

As people gathered, they began to construct a memorial on the Capitol Square with candles and photos of black people killed by police. Others grilled food for demonstrators while music played.

Photos and candles honor black people killed by police
Photos and candles honor black people killed by police — including Dominique Crawford and Freddie Gray seen here — in a memorial made by protesters in Madison, Wis., at the state Capitol on June 3, 2020. Keni Rosales/WPR

As night fell, demonstrators participated in a moment of silence for Floyd that lasted eight minutes. Afterwards people took turns doing spoken word and rapping, in what organizers called a celebration of black culture.

Demonstrations also took place Wednesday in La Crosse, Manitowoc, Green Bay and Wauwatosa.

The Green Bay Common Council voted 8-4 Tuesday to extend the city’s 9 p.m. curfew to Monday. During the heated meeting, which was held over Zoom, protest organizers told officials they opposed the move.

“There are a lot of people like myself that work 12-hour shifts. I work at a hospital. There are a lot of people that can’t come at 11 o’clock in the morning or throughout the evening but still want to show up in support for the cause,” activist Dajahnae Williams told the group.

Since Floyd’s death, Mayor Eric Genrich and Police Chief Andrew Smith have both said they support the protesters, but both spoke in favor of extending the curfew at the meeting, based on videos of the meeting shared by Williams on Facebook.

“This is why we’re protesting. You’re not hearing us, and we’re going to keep protesting until you hear us,” Williams said in a video she later shared on social media.

The curfew was put in place Monday after shots were fired and looting occurred at a Marathon gas station Sunday night. Protest organizers and other volunteers helped clean up the following morning, and no major incidents have occurred since.

Protests in Green Bay were peaceful Tuesday, according to police. At one point, a demonstrator put mulch on top of a police memorial, intended to honor fallen officers, so he could stand on it without slipping. Police asked the man to get down, and he did.

Editor’s note: Megan Hart, Madeline Fox, Shamane Mills, Andrea Anderson and Jenny Peek contributed to this report.

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