The Chicago chapter of World Can’t Wait teamed up with Stop Mass Incarceration Network last Saturday to take a challenge to Fighting Bob Fest: “Which Side Are You On, Madison?”
Fighting Bob Fest is an annual gathering in Madison of progressive people from around Wisconsin, people who we expected to be aware of the wanton murder of Black and Brown people by police and the movement to stop it. We were not wrong. But knowing that begs the question, the one we put to everyone we met: Which side are you on?
We used strong visual messaging to project that challenge (see photos).
In all we raised $500 while continuing to put out the larger goal and the need to send 100 families to New York, including to send buses from Madison. We found a lot of potential to follow up on, including all the people who gave us their contact information, the organizers from other groups that we got to know, and the stacks of palm cards and posters people took to get out in their circles.
The population of Madison itself is only 8% Black, and yet 75% of the youth held in juvenile detention are Black, making it another gateway to mass incarceration. This spring the city was rocked when young, unarmed Tony Robinson was murdered by Madison police and students from two high schools walked out and occupied the State Capital. Still, his murder was ruled “justified.” So the reality of lives stolen with impunity was right there in their own backyard. And Tony’s family has been outspoken in their support for Oct. 24:
We posed sharp questions throughout the day: the window of awareness and clarity about police murder of mainly Black and brown unarmed people is being closed. One after the other these murders are being settled as “justified,” with no prosecutions of police, while protesters across the country are facing charges, some very serious (friends in Chicago face felonies for basically not getting out of the street fast enough for police).
Media at a national level and some police officials label the Black Lives Matter movement a hate group and “terrorist.” Coming from the lips of police officials that is not just a (ridiculous) slur but a threat of even more serious charges.
In the face of all this, we need a national response that shows the world the magnitude of the problem, bringing together all these stories. The reality is that, after centuries of oppression, now this system doesn’t have jobs for Black people (in large terms, as a group), and is incarcerating and criminalizing Black people at unprecedented rates. A fascist social base is being whipped up to support murdering unarmed people in the streets, so which side are you on? This historical moment won’t last, you have to throw in with this effort now. The point is not to dismiss anyone’s existing agenda, but insisting that we ALL need to speak together about this right now.
An older white man came up while we were still setting up, hanging up the Stolen Lives banner, and told us that he had been badly beaten up by police twice after coming back from Vietnam. “You want to know why I’m still alive? Because I’m white. Ask me for $100 (to donate to the campaign).” Another older white man said he had been a cop for 2 years some time ago, “I had to quit. They were all just such assholes.”
A Vietnam era vet (who was white) asked, “What if the protest is mainly white people?” A World Can’t Wait member responded, “A, it won’t be, because there’s a whole lot of people in NYC who aren’t white who are really against police murder, but B, wouldn’t that be a powerful thing to see a large protest of mainly white people saying Black lives matter, stop the police terror?” He said he agreed completely.
On the way home, we continued our brainstorming about how to sharpen our message, reach out to old friends and new, and raise the urgently needed funds to mobilize a huge outpouring on October 24 in New York City.