West Dayton Street was alive with the sounds of cowbells and ratchets in harmony with people chanting “Cops off campus” on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 9.
The event, beginning outside of the Camp Randall Arch, was a rally to demand racial justice and the removal of all police personal from the UW-Madison campus.
The rally, organized by the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition in partnership with the TAA, marched from the Camp Randall Arch to the UW Police station to their final destination of Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s home.
The protest occurred in the wake of a recent ASM meeting, hosted on September 29th, in which students voted that they had “no confidence” in UWPD.
The following day, Chancellor Blank spoke with representatives from two UW-Madison student newspapers, The Daily Cardinal and Badger Herald.
During the meeting, Chancellor Blanks stated that she, “[has] not heard from any students who had an individual story to tell about a negative interaction with a specific police officer on campus.”
Blank’s statement was met with anger and opposition from the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition who emphasized the rampant racism prevalent in the department.
One member of the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition, Juliana Bennet, expressed her frustration with Blank’s inability to hear BIPOC voices.
“BIPOC students are getting harassed on this campus. [The UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition has] gotten so many stories of students coming on campus and calling for help from UWPD and they do nothing about it,” Bennet said.
In response to Blank’s words, the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition has created a Google form in which students can document their bad experiences with UWPD.
The rally also featured a variety of speakers including representatives from the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA), The Madison Black Student Union (BSU), and the Associated Students of Madison (ASM.)
The vice president of the Madison BSU and current UW junior, Nzinga Acosta, addressed her frustrations with Blank’s lack of action, noting that despite meeting with her, Chancellor Blank has yet to act on their demands nor has met with any other BIPOC student organizations to hear their demands.
“She needs to hear BIPOC voices because she’s making decisions and she’s speaking on behalf of us and she doesn’t know a thing about us,” Acosta said.
The Madison BSU also has a list of demands including the fulfillment of the 13 demands requested by the 1969 Madison BSU, the removal of “Chamberlain Rock” formally known as Ni**erhead Rock”, and the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill.
Other organizations present expressed their disdain for the statue and are urging Blank to remove the statue from campus.
Many speakers pointed to Blank’s recent statement as a blatant example of her lack of empathy for BIPOC voices on campus.
Blank stated in meeting with student leaders, that “[Lincoln] could have killed way more [indigenous peopls] than he did.”
One speaker, John Walker, a student on campus and member of the TAA noted that the statue is a disgusting reminder of how various administrations, both executive and local, have treated their Indigenous citizens.
“This statue carries its own stains of history, from its origin of my home state [of Kentukcy] all the way to this university’s legacy on racism and land appropriation. If the chancellor wants any recommendations on other Kentuckians to put up on that hill, I’ve got a list…or how about we just forget about statues all together and talk about real justice, and decolonization, and unsettling of this land?”
However, Walker further emphasized that the removal of the statue is not enough to mitigate the damages done by the UW administration towards BIPOC students and Indigenous members of the Madison community.
“That statute is at the top of a hill and this administration knows that when it comes down, it won’t stop. They’re afraid of a snowball that’s gonna become an avalanche and I’m here to tell y’all, and most of all to you, Chancellor Blank, that that avalanche is not just a possibility, it’s a promise,” Walker said.
The event was attended by many UW students. One BIPOC student, Camika Hurdle, noted that it is the job of students to push back on the administration when they are not fulfilling their duty to their students.
“I think [our responsibility is to hold] the university accountable, especially when we are paying them and they’re not adequately representing us or protecting us or listening to our demands,” Hurdle said.
The various organizations present also mentioned that it is important to keep this momentum up to ensure that BIPOC voices are heard and their demands are met.
“We need to continue to push,” said Bennet.
The rally concluded with the placement of two signs over Blank’s front steps, one reading “COPS OFF CAMPUS ” and the other, “CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?”
And, as the protesters moved away from Blank’s residence, the phrase “We’ll be back” was chanted as they marched.