For the eighth day in a row, protesters across Wisconsin gathered Friday to remember African-Americans killed by law enforcement and fight for the end to racial injustice and police brutality.
Various gatherings were held in Madison, Milwaukee, Monona, Racine, Portage and other cities around the state on Friday afternoon and evening. Large crowds have demonstrated in Wisconsin cities following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis last week. Floyd's death has sparked large-scale protests and unrest in many communities.
Protesters Celebrate Breonna Taylor As Demonstrations Enter Eighth Straight Day
On what would have been Breonna Taylor's 27th birthday, protesters across Wisconsin gathered Friday to fight for justice for Taylor and the end of police brutality.
Taylor was shot to death by police on March 13, when officers executing a no-knock warrant entered her Louisville, Kentucky apartment in the middle of the night. After a brief confrontation, police fired several shots, striking her at least eight times.
In Madison, demonstrators met at James Madison Park at 2 p.m. Organizers from Urban Triage and Freedom Inc. said Friday's "call to action" was a party to celebrate Taylor's birthday.
Shortly after 2 p.m., organizers set up tables full of food and water, fired up grills for a cookout and chalked the sidewalk with messages like "Happy Birthday Breonna. #SayHerName."
Freedom Inc. handed out masks to those without, and encouraged people to practice safe, social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Mahnker Dahnweih, community power building coordinator for Freedom Inc., addressed several hundred people, emphasizing the need to keep up the momentum.
"We need to continue to seek policy change and to seek justice for all murdered black people in this country," she said. "The root of all of this is white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism, and we have to continue to be vigilant in abolishing all of those systems of oppression ... the demand for today across the nation is: stop this war against black people."
Brandi Grayson, founder and CEO of Urban Triage, announced that next week, Madison organizers would be handing off the planning of events to area youth. Grayson told attendees to "move out the way," as young people are "making and creating history."
Kim Williams, who attended the James Madison Park gathering, said she’s already been to a handful of the protests in Madison. She said she wants to see laws and policies that hold police officers accountable, and that eliminate systemic injustices.
"I'm hoping to see the system change," said Williams. "I feel like it’s been corrupted since before I was born. Since before my mother was born. For years and years, and centuries and centuries. So I’m looking for change. I’m looking for equality."
As the celebration continued, artists painted signs and the sidewalk while a DJ played songs by Beyonce and the "Cupid Shuffle."
Later in the afternoon the group built an altar near the lake front in the park with signs, candles and flowers to honor people who were killed by police.
Madison police closed Gorham Street near James Madison Park, but beyond that, police presence was minimal Friday afternoon.
More people gathered by the state capitol in the evening, as they have for several nights in a row.
Demonstrations Held In Other Cities Around Wisconsin
In nearby Monona, City Council Member Kristie Goforth Schilling planned to host a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. to "talk about social justice issues, racial disparities and how white people can take steps towards being true allies."
The town hall comes after Keonte Furdge, 23, filed a complaint against Monona police for handcuffing him in his own home after a neighbor called the police on him.
Several protests were planned in the Milwaukee area Friday, including one in West Allis starting at noon. Protesters planned to meet at Greenfield Park and begin marching to the West Allis Police Department.
Also at noon, protesters met at the corner of North 52nd and West Chambers Street to march to Sherman Park. Milwaukee police officers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Jewish community leaders and health care workers from Ascension SE Wisconsin's St. Joseph Campus joined in the march.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore also attended the protest.
Another group of demonstrators met at Humboldt Park — the site of several Milwaukee demonstrations — at 2 p.m. to prepare for a march toward downtown.
By 5 p.m., the protest had grown to several hundred people. The group chanted “I believe that we will win," as it marched west on National Avenue. Letecia, a Milwaukee native, said it was one of the more peaceful protests she's attended this week.
"It's a beautiful thing," she said. "People are actually uniting and that's what I love to see."
Friday marked the fifth day of demonstration for the 32-year-old. She wore a rainbow jersey for Pride Month.
"(Pride Month) is a very special thing for me," she said. "It's a celebration of who I am."
She feels it's important to get out and support other groups, she said.
About 20 cars followed the group, honking along the way. One was driven by Kevin, 55, who's been bringing water to protesters all week. He had about 200 bottles in his SUV Friday.
He said the demonstration Friday wasn't the largest he's attended this week, but he said he thinks it's a good thing groups are spreading out more to reach other areas.
Protests in the Milwaukee area were also planned for Brookfield, Grafton and Glendale.
The Milwaukee native said he's happy people are paying attention.
"It kind of is a longtime coming but it's here now, so we're going to appreciate it," he said.
Another protest, led by Frank Nitty and Khalil Coleman — who have spearheaded several of the past week's marches — was coming down Wisconsin Avenue around the same time. Demonstrators chanted "I can't breathe" and sang happy birthday to Breonna Taylor.
Protests Organized In Racine, Portage
Immigrant advocacy group Voces de la Frontera is planning a car caravan through Racine Friday that started at 5 p.m. The protest was to honor George Floyd, as well as Dontre Hamilton, who was shot and killed by Milwaukee police in 2014, and Ty'rese West, who was shot and killed by police in Mount Pleasant last year. The mothers of Hamilton and West are scheduled to speak.
There was also a protest planned for Friday in Portage.
Editor's note: This story will be updated. Bridgit Bowden, Rachael Vasquez, Jenny Peek, Kyla Calvert Mason, Megan Hart and Erik Lorenzsonn contributed to this story.