On Friday night, Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old black teenager in Madison, Wisconsin, was shot and killed by Matt Kenny, a white officer and 12-year veteran on the city's police force.
According to the Associated Press, Kenny had followed Robinson in response to two calls, one alleging that a suspect had been jumping in and out of traffic and another claiming that the same man assaulted someone. Police say Kenny heard a disturbance and entered a nearby apartment, soon finding himself in a fight with Robinson. During the altercation, Kenny fired his weapon and fatally shot Robinson, who was unarmed. The recent high school graduate, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, had been found guilty of armed robbery in December.
Since Friday's shooting, the city has transformed into the latest site of protest and grief. In gatherings reminiscent of those in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Michael Brown last August, demonstrators have marched through the streets and gathered at the site where Robinson was killed to demand justice.
City officials, for their part, have tried to adopt a different response than the widely criticized handling of the Ferguson aftermath. Following Robinson's death on Friday, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval sought out Robinson's mother at her home and, after she turned him away, reportedly prayed with Robinson's grandmother in the driveway of their home for 45 minutes. Writing on the police blog, Koval later issued an apology over Robinson's death.
Our community is grieving and hurting over the loss of a young African American man, who life was ended far too soon. His family, his friends, and our community are in mourning. The police are part of this community---and we share this sense of loss. I have stated as much to representatives of his family, in statements to the press, and to our work force. Reconciliation cannot begin without my stating "I am sorry," and I don't think I can say this enough. I am sorry. I hope that, with time, Tony's family and friends can search their hearts to render some measure of forgiveness.
Other city officials have been quick to make calls for accountability in the case, including Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. "Our community has many questions, questions that I share. There will be answers," he said in a statement Saturday. "When the answers come, we will be open and transparent in communicating them."
But for demonstrators uniting under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter, the problem is not specific to a city or particular police officer, but systemic on a national level, especially considering the use of deadly force against an unarmed victim."We have a police chief who genuinely feels for a family's loss," Jim Palmer, executive director of the state's largest police union, told AP. "It should be abundantly clear to anyone following this incident that Madison, Wisconsin, is not Ferguson, Missouri."
Citing a 2013 report by an initiative known as the Race to Equity, The Guardian reported that in 2011, "80 percent of youths in juvenile detention facilities in Dane County, where Madison is located, were African American. They represented only 9 percent of the county’s population."
On Monday, the demonstrations continued when as many as 1,500 protestors, many of whom were reported to be high school and college students, gathered inside the Capitol Building rotunda to call for justice.