Protestors Lay Flowers, Black Lives Matter Signs on Dane County Sheriff's Lawn
Demonstrators in Madison are asking for the defunding of police and the release of inmates with COVID-19. Dozens of cars caravanned to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney's house June 2 and laid signs and flowers on his lawn. (Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)

Demonstrators Call for Defunding Police, Releasing Inmates During Pandemic.

A caravan of roughly 100 cars made their way through a suburban Madison neighborhood Tuesday before coming to a stop to lay bouquets of flowers and signs reading “Black Lives Matter” on the lawn of Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney’s home. 

Since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers May 25, demonstrations have erupted in cities across the country. In Dane County, the demonstrations have often included comments about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Although African Americans make up 6 percent of the county’s population, they account for nearly 50 percent of arrests. 

On Tuesday, the fourth day of planned protests, demonstrators gathered at the Dane County Jail before getting in their vehicles and making their way to Mahoney’s home. The caravan brought traffic to a near standstill on one of the city’s main highways and two vehicles were involved in an accident. 

Dozens of car drove from the Dane County Jail to Sheriff Dave Mahoney’s house Tuesday to ask for the release of inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things. (Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)

Prior to arriving at the sheriff’s home, Mahnker Dahnweih, the community power building coordinator for Freedom Inc., one of the organizations coordinating the daily demonstrations, said the group had three demands; defund the police, free inmates and community control of policing. 

She also said too many inmates are being put in solitary confinement when they test positive for COVID-19. She described this as “torture, not healthcare.” 

At one point in early May, the Wisconsin National Guard tested all staff and inmates for the virus. Of the 427 inmates tested, six new cases were discovered. Three of the inmates have been released, one had recovered and 25 were in isolation, according to an article by The Capital Times. 

“They are being sentenced to die because there is a global pandemic going on right now and they are still in there,” she said. “We say free them all. We see people being locked up in jail as an extension of police violence.”

Tuesday’s demonstration was the first Amanda Keehn of Dane County attended. 

“It is time that this ends,” Keehn said. “The system was built by white men for white men. The system is functioning just how they want it to.”

Dahnweih called on people to continue to organize for the end of systemic racism.

“We need activism. We need organizing,” she said. “And we need policy change for the material conditions of Black peoples’ lives to actually be better in this country.”