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Mature Madison Needs To Voice Strong Support For Police Regarding Shooting

March 19, 2015

There comes a tilting time when not speaking out in favor of what is right or consisting of common sense only allows for the ones who love discord and false righteousness to win the headlines.   Since the shooting of Tony Robinson by a Madison police officer there has been too long a period when the loud and often strident segment of the citizenry who label the shooting a murder, the police department as a racist institution, or equated our city to Ferguson have been heard.  Sadly, too many of my fellow Madison citizens who know those allegations to be false have seemed reticent to counter with the facts.  Even more concerning to me it seems that some have been cowered into silence–and that includes our elected members of the city council.

For the good of the city that must end.

I was aghast–no better word can be used–when I listened to the public speakers Tuesday night at the city council who openly referred to the shooting as a “murder”.  But what brought me to sitting on the edge of the sofa were the words from Brandi Grayson, a so-called ‘leader’ of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition who made what can only be labeled as a threat.

“We know the facts and when they come out, this city will erupt. This city will effing erupt and the blood and whatever takes place after that is on your hands and the mayor’s hands.”

I understand the procedure the council was operating under at the time of public input, but seriously question as to why it was ever allowed to unfold in that fashion.

How any council member did not rise in the chamber–and being out-of-order or not– verbally state what needs to be said after the threat of  violence was uttered means many have more patience with stupidity than I do.  How any council member sat through the volleys of insanity that flowed from the mouths of those who thought they were somehow swaying anyone to their viewpoint is simply stunning.

How council members did not get up and leave and thereby demonstrate their resolve to stand with the vast majority of law-abiding voters and residents of this city is a question that needs to be answered by those who now ask for our votes in a few weeks at the spring election.  How council members did not at once issue a personal press release objecting to the words of those who were speaking–even though they could not give voice in the chamber–is mystifying to me.  I would like to think they may not have had their laptops with them, but if I were honest about the matter it has more to do with the lack of a political spine.

It would have been far more appropriate for the council to have waited for a meeting where the formal agenda could have included citizen input while also allowing for members to question and also give voice to the majority opinion in the city that at the end of the day this shooting incident does not have the markings of being racially motivated.  To allow for the politically crass to use the outcome from the actions of a young man for their personal ends–as evidenced by the public input–must simply be called out for what it is.

There have been attempts from the very start to limit the words that the majority of us need to register.

The day after the shooting I was on Williamson Street near the site when a large protest was taking place. Along the side of the crowd many police were very visible as they worked to make sure everything remained peaceful.  I walked to one of those officers who was just a bit more removed from the crowd than the  others and stated there was support in the area for the police and not everyone was opposed to them. He said thanks and that he was aware of the support.

I walked away and several yards later a man walked up from behind and asked “Did I just hear that?”

“What did you hear”, I asked, and he repeated my words.  I replied, “Yes, that is what you heard.”

“You can not be f…..serious?” was the response.

We talked for several minutes in a more calm back-and-forth as I was not about to be shut down over using my First Amendment rights.  At one point I asked how many of the ones in the crowd were registered to vote as I know that is the real way to impact change.

“Why should they vote as they do not believe in the system or that anyone will work for them.”

The person I was speaking with was a teacher in the city.  I already felt bad about the loss of a young man in my neighborhood and now a teacher made me feel even more upset given the attitude that was also one he personally shared about our political system.    If we do not have teachers who can see the wisdom of our politics what hope do we have for our youth?

The list of conversations I had with a variety of people over the past week have even included the idea that a better balance in police policies between the value put on the cop’s life and that put on the non-cop’s life needs to be implemented.    I heard that twice and from each person it was stated in a way that made it seem I should see the wisdom in allowing those who have placed public safety at risk to have a better chance of getting the upper hand over a law enforcement officer.  An officer, it should ne noted, who has devoted a professional life to provide safety and making sure laws are abided with in this city.

At the end of those types of conversations I was left shaking my head in disbelief.

We need to stop shaking our heads, being silenced or cowered, and instead make a stand for the police department.  We must not allow our city to be torn apart, erupt, or made bloody by those who can only get their way if we bow to them.

  1. March 21, 2015 11:37 AM

    Skip, I’m not sure that this young man being confronted by police after he’d just run down Willy St and punched a civilian pedestrian out — seemingly completely at random — is a good example of “crap that minorities in Madison shouldn’t have to deal with.”

    Yes, there are VERY serious questions here about whether the officer could have/should have handled this situation better, not put himself into a confined space with a individual that had been called in for being violently out of control and attacking without provocation. But this pretense/silence about that it was Tony’s actions and decisions that precipitated this tense situation, not racist impulses by an officer to target a minority, any old minority, this is just … silly. The more someone pretends it’s not a critical circumstance in this case, the less I (and many others) pay attention to their point of view. You might have valid points, points that would otherwise resonate with me & other people who have been concerned MPD excessive force — and for apparently a lot longer than you have, ever since Paul Heenan was killed — but you’re building your appeals on a shaky foundation of selective use of facts, and so don’t expect that even sympathetic people like me will discount your words until you at least admit the complexity & ambiguity of this situation.

  2. Keith permalink
    March 20, 2015 2:40 PM

    Unfortunately, the whole thing has been handled badly by all sides from the night of the incident on.

    Many questions are left unanswered: why only one cop? Why enter? Why lethal force? Why not a taser? Was the officer injured? Was he struck? Why was the body moved? Why three shots?

    Immediately following the incident, reports streamed in praising the officer and condemning the victim. From the get go, it was presented as a case of the officer being victimized and the shot teen was no longer a victim. THAT’S the part that sends people to the streets chanting. THAT’S the part that causes illogical outbursts of emotion, frustration and let’s be honest, fear. Watch a speed trap in Fitchburg sometime. Or actually spend time around Badger Rd or Allied (Driving while Black?). Anyone with personal experience will say that the MPD does in fact treat people differently based on race, class, and location. And it’s this understanding that drives this fear of the establishment. The incident was used in conjunction with that fear to mobilize the younger masses while stoking the fire of deep rooted race issues within our city. I cannot agree with the loud, accusatory, threatening nature of the youthful representatives in your article, but I find it telling the amount of simmering anger within the minority communities and calls for further investigations into the basis of their claims regardless if the young individuals showed their immaturity in their presentation.

    It’s a sad state of affairs no matter how you look at it. But for the City Council to be demonized for allowing people to yell, scream or whatever else went on is shortsighted. Frankly cutting off those discussions, no matter how inappropriate, would only spurn further anger and contempt (see Ferguson). Where I take issue is in Chief Koval’s response. To be appalled that the council didn’t demand respect for the Department is kind of silly in my opinion. The “respect for the uniform and the heroes” that wear them is a propaganda façade that needs to be let go. Heroes are made and respect is given to those who are respectful. And he just sat listening to many people share how they felt the MPD doesn’t respect them or their community. His reaction to his position/department not being given all the accolades they deserve in that moment is missing the issue. Furthermore, it could be viewed as another white person telling minorities to “remember their place”. Another white person of power telling minority groups to behave and respect him if they want to be taken seriously. All coming on the legs of numerous national reports stating and illustrating the disproportionate difficulties they endure as minorities in the US, Wisconsin or even more troubling, Dane County.

    History dictates the well behaved rarely bring about change and the Catch 22 is by being loud, combative and threatening, their important and valid issues were overshadowed by their actions and the issues got written off yet again.

  3. March 20, 2015 2:20 PM

    I know my track record on pushing for better education standards, more accountability–and make no mistake education is where all the issues we are talking about start from. I have advocated for the Dream Act, immigration reform, my volunteer work with someone to obtain English reading skills through Literacy Council, being a Big Brother in Madison, and I could go on have allowed me to understand how a variety of backgrounds makes for different life experiences. But since I am not at all convinced with the facts I now know that there was a racial connection to the shooting in question then your desire for me to talk with protestors is moot. They are protesting for something that in fact was not present with this shooting. I think a better dialogue with people takes place at our dinner table where we often have people over for a real conversation. Such as the man from Pakistan who practices his Muslim religion and fights the perceptions from too many that he might be a radical. Or helping a transgender person from outside Madison find a job here—and we talked with an employer and was grateful it all worked–and now the person is doing well and quite adjusted. That last work on my part was a growing moment as I admit little real understanding over that topic but my partner and I became involved and made a positive difference for someone. So yeah, I have the empathy part of your question handled.

  4. Skip permalink
    March 20, 2015 12:03 PM

    I am not talking about offering condolences to the family of the deceased, I am talking about offering empathy to the view that minorities in Madison have to deal with a lot of crap that they shouldn’t have to.

  5. March 20, 2015 11:41 AM

    I spoke directly to the man’s grandmother and offered her my feelings about her loss. I was able to do so when the protestors were not present and she just happened to be outside at the time I walked by. We spoke only briefly, but yes, to your question. She thanked me and I walked on

  6. Skip permalink
    March 20, 2015 11:34 AM

    Did you express any empathy for the plight of too many minorities in this city to any protesters or just offer support to the police?

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