by Scot McCullough
Image from Black Umbrella Global for the 7 Days of Black Cultural Rally
On Sunday, June 28, about 50 people came out to a rally organized by Black Umbrella Global and the What’s Next Forum, two groups in Madison that have emerged out of the recent wave of rebellion. The demands of the rally were to (1) Defund the police, (2) remove police from schools, (3) Fund community resources like schools and development programs, (4) free Yeshua Musa, a local black activist and leader who was arrested this past week for political activity and is still imprisoned and facing trumped-up charges, and (5) drop all charges on all the Black men who have been helping their communities.
The rally did not take place downtown, where most political rallies in Madison are held, but instead five miles away at Belmar Hills Park, in the Allied Drive neighborhood. Downtown Madison is between 80-90% white, whereas the neighborhood where the rally took place is one of the most racially diverse areas in the city, with a population that is only 32% white and 34% Black. As one rally organizer put it, the rally took place at this specific location to show participants, who are accustomed to downtown Madison, a multi-racial neighborhood that could use the funds that are currently going to the police.
The rally involved some speeches at the park before beginning to march. Chants included “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police,” “Who Can you Trust? Not the Police,” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” When the group reached Highway 18, the cars involved in the procession took the highway to block lanes while people on foot followed and made a line across one direction of the highway. After a short time, the group crossed the median and blocked the highway in the other direction, again making use of cars from participants as a barrier between marchers and other drivers. All in all, the blockade on the highway lasted about 30 minutes before moving back to the side-street off of the highway and marching back to Belmar Hills Park.
Back at the park, speakers once again addressed the crowd. Shy, an organizer with Black Umbrella Global, spoke clearly about how the racism of police funding goes beyond just the violence of the police.
“We are asking today for the police to be defunded and allocate some of those funds to communities like this, communities of color, communities of Black people. So we can get the programs we need, we can get the knowledge that we need, it can be provided for us so that we can get ahead in life. Period. Because they keep us on these programs, on this aid, and when we get jobs, they take us off. We get jobs that’s only $10-$15 an hour, but that’s not enough to feed a family of three. That’s not enough to pay your bills, pay your rent, pay your insurance, pay your car note, pay your light bill, daycare. That’s not enough. So we asking the police to reallocate some of those funds into their communities, to help us to get ahead. Not for us to be on aid all of our lives, we don’t want that shit. We don’t like telling these people our business. We want to be able to be self-successful, to be able to do things on our own. We want to be able to be comfortable, just like these white people out here. We are asking them for a chance for equality, and I think that’s the bare minimum, that’s the bare minimum they can give us.”
In the last week, Madison police have arrested four young Black activists. These arrests have taken place when activists have either left rallies or are engaging in political activity on their own. As the arresting cops admit in the live video of the 4th arrest, they waited until the person they wanted to arrest left the rally “so you’re away from the group …. It’s safer that way.” The highest profile of these arrests was of Yeshua Musa, who is still in jail.
Yeshua was initially arrested for disorderly conduct and then resisting arrest, escaping an arrest, and a parole violation, showing how people with documented encounters with the criminal system are further criminalized for political activity. Trump-appointed US Attorney Scott Blader added federal extortion charges a few days later. Because of the severity of the crimes he is charged with, Yeshua has not been able to post bail.
At the rally, Shy spoke about the continued fight to get Yeshua out of the COVID-19 deathtrap that is the jail and prison system, saying “We are also asking that they free Yeshua, an innocent man. Yeshua was locked up right after he had fed the homeless, right after he had played chess with a random person from downtown. That man was down there every day, and [the police] knew that. That man was down there every day feeding knowledge to the people, feeding the homeless, calling for change and they locked him up to silence him. But we say ‘Fuck That’”.
Shy encouraged people at the rally to stay involved by join the Facebook group for Black Umbrella Global and helping out with their carwash fundraiser that will be this Friday, July 3 from 4-8pm at Brittingham Park. She also encouraged people to get involved with and participate in the upcoming week of action 7 Shades of Black: 7 Days of Solidarity With 7 Themes to Celebrate Black Culture, which will be from Tuesday, July 7 through Monday, July 13.