‘We are better than this’: Madison community leaders push for violent protests to end

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MADISON, Wis. — Madison’s mayor and other community leaders are asking people to end violent protests that erupted in downtown Madison Saturday night.

“This violence does nothing to support the interests of social justice nor police and criminal justice reform,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway during a news conference.

Thousands of people gathered outside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis this week.

The Madison protests remained peaceful all afternoon, until a smaller group broke off around 5:00 p.m. and began vandalizing businesses and property along State Street.

“This conduct harms our community as we attempt to express our outrage and advocate for needed change,” Mayor Rhodes-Conway said.

Bystanders captured video shortly after Floyd was taken into police custody. The video shows former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd is heard repeatedly on the video saying “I can’t breathe,” as well as “mama” and “please.” Charging documents determined Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds total. This was nearly three minutes after the time Floyd became unresponsive.

“This man did not deserve to die the way he did. But we deserve to treat this man and his aftermath with respect,” said Madison Common Council President Sheri Carter, while talking about Floyd’s legacy Saturday night in Madison.

Chauvin was arrested on Friday, four days after Floyd’s death. He is charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd’s death has sparked violent protests across the country all week, with the one in Madison schedule to begin at noon on Saturday. Again, the initial protest called “Justice for George – Madison” started out peacefully with protesters marching around the Wisconsin State Capitol and to the home of Tony Robinson, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a Madison police officer five years ago.

As the initial protest was winding down, a small broke group broke off and headed toward State Street. Things turned violent after the group broke into several businesses and began damaging city property. Madison police are using tear gas to try and disburse the group.

“I love Madison. I love all the communities we serve. We are better than this. But our society is not equitable nor as just as I want it to be. I am calling on everyone in Madison to come together in the pursuit of the kind of city of which we can all be proud. A city that lives up to our values of equity, inclusion and shared prosperity,” Rhodes-Conway said.

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