Statement of Mayor Rhodes-Conway
This has been a difficult few days for our City and our nation. The divider-in-chief is working hard to escalate at the federal level, while leaders in our community are working hard to listen, learn and de-escalate.
Yesterday afternoon there was a robust and peaceful protest disrupting traffic on John Nolen Drive. I went down to talk to protesters and listen to their concerns. Several young people in attendance had the opportunity to speak directly to me, asking me tough and challenging questions, and outlining demands, which they believe, will address the mistrust in police and get at real root causes. That protest, organized by Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage, ended peacefully and later dispersed. Today, those same groups organized a peaceful slowdown on the Beltline.
Last night, a crowd gathered on the capitol square to protest peacefully and exercise their first amendment rights. Organizers worked hard to push back elements who wanted to march down State Street, blocking the top of the street with their own cars and urging people to avoid State Street with bullhorns. When those activists left, at about one in the morning, the crowd largely dispersed except for a number of individuals and small groups that turned down State Street. They quickly broke up into very small clusters and spread out through the area.
Molotov cocktails were used, stores were looted with hammers and bats, shots were fired, crowbars were used to attack individuals. This is not protest. This is dangerous criminal behavior, and because these were multiple small clusters of unrelated criminals, fanning out across the downtown, they presented a very tough law enforcement challenge, especially because officers operating in ones and twos were attacked earlier in the week. Painfully, many of our wonderful stores on State Street were heavily damaged yet again.
This type of criminal conduct is never acceptable. It threatens the safety of the public and of the many people who live above the stores on State Street and on surrounding streets. It destroys the livelihood of business owners and employees. I support the police in their efforts to address this very difficult and very dangerous law enforcement challenge. Our officers were pelted with bricks and rocks. I hope that everyone appreciates the efforts of these officers, as the City has gotten though three nights of unrest with very few serious injuries.
It is time for this to end. Please stay home tonight. I welcome protests – particularly in the daytime – but I do not want legitimate protests to continue to provide cover for this violent, unacceptable behavior. I understand anger, but there is no excuse for putting lives in danger, and that is what is happening. Again – please stay home tonight, and tomorrow night.
And to everyone in Madison, please don’t forget that we are still living through a pandemic. Wash your hands, and cover your face and stay six feet apart when you’re out in public. Please get tested for COVID-19 – free testing is available at the Alliant Energy Center. Please stay safe, and take care of each other. Our community is strong – and although many of us are in pain, we can and must work together to heal.