"Hands up, don’t shoot!”
“Black lives matter!”
The familiar refrains of protests nationwide once again rang out across the UW-Madison campus as over 800 students flooded Helen C. White Library Sunday in a protest of racial discrimination in Madison and throughout the country.
Protesters rallied at the top of Bascom Hill before marching toward the library, weaving through the heart of campus in an act of solidarity with demonstrations that have taken place in Missouri and New York.
Upon arriving at the library, the group spread out across the building’s three floors, lying on the floor in a “die-in” protest. Members remained mostly silent throughout the roughly 20-minute protest, only periodically voicing chants such as “no justice, no peace.”
“I think [the protest] went beautifully,” protest organizer and UW-Madison student Deshawn McKinney said. “I was worried about getting the bodies out but in four days we were able to mobilize 800 people and make our presence known. It was nice seeing so many people standing in support because as a person of color you often don’t know who supports you.”
Despite rumblings of discontent that the protests were strategically planned to confront students studying for final exams, the demonstration remained peaceful. UW-Madison Police Department officers stood by as many students observed the protest, taking photos or video, while others simply continued studying.
UW-Madison police officer Aaron Chapin said UWPD was notified Thursday about the protest.
“This was a very well organized event, and it is very important for citizens to safely exercise their First Amendment rights,” Chapin said, adding later there were not any incidents that required police intervention.
Chapin also said officers worked with protest organizers to shut down streets as the march progressed.
McKinney thanked UWPD for keeping the events peaceful.
“The police really supported us, they helped us shut down the streets and they were around in College Library,” he said. “We didn’t get any of the backlash that we expected and were prepared for. A lot of students were flustered and confused. Our cause hit them and that’s what we were there for.”
Sophomore protester Rodney Lambright said that, despite the protests coming at a hectic time on campus, the message was still important.
“It was important for us to protest the events across America, as well as the things hidden here on campus,” Lambright said “We needed to say that our lives do matter. We have to make this [message] prevalent, even in the busiest times.”
McKinney emphasized that Sunday’s protests were a jumping off point for future action.
“This won’t be the last that people see of us,” he said. “We hope to open more dialogue and communication between students and the administration and continue this work on campus.”