To many Madisonians, Saturday came as a welcomed break from the frigid winter with the sun high above us giving everyone a reason to be outside.
But to Tony Robinson’s family and friends, the sunlight came with the cold realization that Saturday would be the first morning waking up without their son, grandson, nephew and friend.
We have all seen the sun rise on a Madison without Tony Robinson. And with each new day, that will be the reality.
Tony Robinson, the 19-year-old teenager who recently graduated from Sun Prairie High School with plans to study at Madison College, died Friday night. He was shot by Madison Police Department Officer Matt Kenny during an altercation in a Williamson Street apartment.
The case is being investigated by the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, a party independent of MPD, to determine whether Kenny was justified in using deadly force.
This is not a new conversation for many of those who are having it. Violence levied by white officers against black citizens is not a newly debated phenomenon. There are disproportionate arrest rates and other inequalities in the criminal justice system as it exists today.
In 2010, 230 black adults per 1,000 were arrested, compared to 53 white adults, according to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families’ 2013 “Race to Equity” report.
But amid all this, take the time to tap into the humanity of this frenzy and remember Tony Robinson as a person.
Expressing frustration that his family was not allowed to see the body Friday night, Sharon Irwin, Tony Robinson’s grandmother, spoke out.
“I said, ‘I want to see my grandson, I just want to hold him,’” Irwin said. “They told me ‘he was evidence.’ My boy was evidence.”
City leaders did not spend time ignoring the humanity of the situation, that one of our own was killed.
“Nineteen years old is too young,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said at a press conference Saturday.
“It’s an unspeakable tragedy,” Mayor Paul Soglin said late Friday night where protesters gathered at the site of the shooting.
Those few, simple words illuminate that at the center of this, where so much is being asked about profound, deep-rooted racial injustices, is the death of Tony Robinson—someone’s son, grandson and friend. Notice that. Feel that.
Soglin said in a Saturday statement Madisonians should “honor and respect the young life of Anthony Robinson.”
“I say this without knowledge of the indispensable facts of what happened Friday night but out of respect for the dignity of every person,” Soglin said in the statement.
Madison, after hearing about these instances occurring hundreds of miles away, this has now happened in our backyard. The conversations, the debates, the protests that have been taking place from a national perspective have now turned local.
Unfortunately, change does not tend to happen without a push of this magnitude. Large-scale shifts in the criminal justice system cannot happen overnight. Let the personal feeling, that this happened to one of Madison’s own, push for the necessary change.
To those who are, stop making this into an issue of Tony Robinson’s past, whether or not he was the person his family, friends and the media are making him out to be. The Madison community lost a life and politicized debate loses sight of that.
Scattered among chants of “Black lives matter” and “No justice. No peace,” was the plea for everyone involved—police officers, city officials, protesters, residents, bystanders—to keep at heart the name of a 19-year-old teenager who lost his life.
“Who did they kill?” protesters shouted. “Tony Robinson.”
"Who did they kill? Tony Robinson." #WillyStreet pic.twitter.com/Eg6vlHR4h3— Jonah Beleckis (@JBeleckis) March 7, 2015
Don’t forget Tony Robinson. Don’t forget his name. Don’t forget that someone lost their son, grandson, nephew and friend, regardless of what side of the national conversation you stand on.
Each morning, we will wake up to a world without Tony Robinson.
And that is a sad, sad reality.
Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org