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Expected Protests In Madison Fizzle 2 Days In A Row

Pro-Trump And 'Antifacist' Events Draw Media And Law Enforcement Attention, But Few Attendees

two people in winter gear and face masks place small tarts into a box next to other donated items
Scott Morrison Melman, left, and Taylor Tai, right, store cheese and vegetable tarts in a pizza box to keep them warm Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, at during and “antifacist mutual aid event” at McPike Park in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Tensions continue to run high nationwide following the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, and ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday. But in Madison, a planned mass demonstration largely failed to materialize for the second day in a row.

Just a couple dozen people turned out Monday morning at the city’s downtown McPike Park for what was billed as an “antifacist mutual aid event” to organize against “any coming far right uprisings.”

A Facebook post from organizers said the gathering was meant to show support for Jacob Blake, the Black Kenosha man who was left partially paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in the summer. It was also intended to condemn the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection by extremist supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol building seeking to overturn his election loss.

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But by around noon Monday, only a handful of ralliers were on hand as speakers talked about racial and social justice issues. The event, which was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, also included handing out sandwiches, pizza and clothing near a homeless encampment in the park.

One of those in attendance was second year University of Wisconsin-Madison medical student Tomas Schlenker.

“Dr. King, as far as I know and understand, was primarily for the poor and oppressed and the underclass. That’s what we’re doing here today,” Schlenker said. “We are drawing attention to the idea that there are people who simply need help. We can have these high-minded conversations about ideals but at the end of the day, what we want to do is the same thing that Martin Luther King wanted to do and just provide justice.”

two small yellow signs say
Signs are displayed near the demonstration Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, at McPike Park in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The event comes a day after an expected demonstration at the state Capitol by Trump supporters protesting Biden’s upcoming inauguration failed to materialize. Workers boarded up windows and erected barriers around the Wisconsin Capitol amid concerns of potential violence like what occurred in Washington. Extra law enforcement officers were on hand throughout the day, blocking traffic around the Capitol Square, but things stayed quiet.

The FBI issued warnings about potential armed protests at state capitols throughout the country, but in cities where demonstrators did gather, numbers were small, with members of the media often outnumbering protesters themselves.

Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly stated the day of the week that the second gathering took place. It has been update.

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