Madison police prepare for possible protests following the Derek Chauvin trial

MADISON, Wis.– Madison leaders are preparing for possible protests following a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes is making a commitment to protect the First Amendment and those counting on it.

“We exercise restraint, protect people first and property second, and we pursue continuous improvement,” Barnes said.

Improvement in handling last summer’s protests while also giving space for expression is something Barnes knows people on all sides of an issue want to see for an protests this summer.

“We are in support of the exercise of First Amendment rights and that these same community members will also hold us accountable if we do not,” Barnes said.

When it comes to using non-lethal weapons, like tear gas, Barnes said it’s a last resort.

“We use them to protect people who are being injured or hurt,” Barnes said. “It’s not something, quite frankly, that I lose a lot of sleep over, because we don’t plan on using them because our protesters will be peaceful.”

Barnes said he can’t tell businesses how to protect their storefronts.

“There’s a state capitol downtown,” Barnes said. “They can watch that as an indicator.”

Elected and community leaders, including Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said they are on board with the Madison Method of policing.

“We’re standing side-by-side, and we’re working together,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Rhodes-Conway said she is also listening to the message behind the protests.

“I am committed, not just to reform, but to reimagining what public safety means and looks like in Madison,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Madison police will remain flexible in their plans.

“Managing protests is a day-by-day, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour decision making process,” Barnes said.

However, Barnes said his commitment to protecting basic rights won’t falter.

The Madison Police Department is in constant communication with other local and federal agencies, including those in Minnesota. So far, they are not aware of any planned protests or demonstrations following the trial.