MPD: Protesters in road cause partial closure of John Nolen Drive

A stretch of John Nolen Drive near the Beltline and Rimrock Road was closed Thursday afternoon when 50-75 protesters refused to leave the roadway, police said.

Police said the incident started at 3:37 p.m. when the protesters moved into an office building at 660 John Nolen Drive. The group occupied common areas and created disturbances, according to a news release from police. The group was asked by management to leave, which is when many of them moved into the road.

Madison police Sgt. Jamar Gary said they asked the group sitting in the middle of the intersection at John Nolen Drive at Rimrock Road to leave. He said many left, but about eight people were still sitting in the middle of John Nolen Drive shortly before 4 p.m.

Part of the group then sat down in the intersection and placed their arms into PVC pipe with chains and bolts inside in order to prevent officers from separating them. Police said the group was repeatedly warned that they could not occupy the road or they would be arrested. Most of the protesters then cooperated, but a smaller group with the pipes and chains remained in the center of the intersection of Rimrock Road from 4:30 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m.

Police said the protesters caused safety hazards including several near crashes. Also, patients seeking cancer treatment at a clinic off John Nolen Drive were delayed, as well as a patient needing to take insulin who was staying at the Sheraton and several ambulances in emergency mode trying to get to downtown hospitals.

Police were also delayed in responding to calls related to a storm that was passing through the area, according to the release.

Officers said the protesters were removed once they could get the tools needed to separate the protesters’ arms.

Ten were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the road and resisting officers.

On its Facebook page, the Madison-based Freedom Inc. group posted photos Thursday afternoon that show a handful of people sitting in the road on a white cloth that reads “BLACK FREEDOM NOW!!!” and a group marching from the Sheraton entrance into the roadway carrying a banner that reads “COMMUNITY CONTROL OVER POLICE” in red-and-black letters. Freedom Inc. said it planned a National Day of Action for Community Control at 4 p.m. Thursday at the police union, which is 660 John Nolen Drive in Madison.

Freedom Inc.’s mission is to “inspire and restore power to those most affected by violence through leadership development and community focus,” according to its website.