Letter: MPD handles demonstrations with good judgment
Madison police Chief Mike Koval and the Madison Police Department have again demonstrated that the equation of public safety and First Amendment rights can be realized when there is a willingness to exercise good judgment for all.
On Saturday, between 3:30-6:30 p.m., approximately 100-120 individuals marched from the Memorial High School parking lot on Mineral Point Road to the West Towne Mall food court and then to the Sears area and returning to Memorial parking lot.
This was a situation that could have easily gone sideways.
Unlike the November demonstration on Park Street, at the time of this protest, West Towne Mall was packed with shoppers. It was extremely difficult to find a parking space around the mall.
Similar to the Park Street demonstration, those involved in the Saturday march comported themselves in the spirit of passive resistance without violence and, for the most part, unnecessary provocation. Saturday, the concern and challenge rested with the appropriate manor to handle the countless shoppers and mall employees who possibly did not share the same concerns as the protesters.
Analogous to the November protest, Koval and the Madison Police Department illustrated by their actions that they were present to ensure that everyone, protester and shopper alike, would be safe and protected equally.
And unlike some headline grabbing by public officials in other cities of our country and state, MPD was not going to be the story. MPD was there and everyone knew they were present, but they conveyed an atmosphere of community and collaboration rather than a show of force. There is a difference. And the actuation of that attitude made the difference.
Also note, Koval was present Saturday and walked behind the marchers with other Madison police officers. This is significant. Madison police assigns a tactical officer, usually a captain, to be the officer in charge of events similar this march. Although that protocol was followed and a tactical command was in place, the chief was there.
It is one thing to tell others what they need to do. It is another to help them do it.
I spoke with the organizer of the activity after the demonstration. We did not discuss the efforts of the MPD, but I believe she and the other protesters appreciate the freedoms that were able to be realized, Saturday.
For this event and the one in November, ensuring the safety of all has not been an option of the MPD, but an obligation.