By DANA FERGUSON
and TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — People angry about a prosecutor’s decision not to charge a white Madison police officer for killing an unarmed biracial man have conducted a mock trial of the officer in protest.
About 150 to 200 protesters marched through the streets of Wisconsin’s capital city on Wednesday before gathering outside of the Dane County Courthouse to stage the fake trial.
The crowd cheered when actors said they would charge Officer Matt Kenny in the March killing of 19-year-old Tony Robinson. Members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, which has led protests since the killing, said the demonstration was intended to represent the processes they wished Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne had used.
Ozanne said Tuesday that he believes Kenny’s actions were justified and didn’t warrant charges.
Demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted as they marched through the streets of Wisconsin’s capital city on Wednesday to voice their anger at a prosecutor’s decision not to charge a white police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed biracial man.
An estimated 150 to 200 protesters slowly walked from the apartment house where Officer Matt Kenny shot 19-year-old Tony Robinson to the Dane County Courthouse, where they began staging a mock trial of the city’s police department outside.
The protest, which comes a day after Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he thinks Kenny’s actions were justified, was organized by Young, Gifted and Black, a group that has been leading protests since the March 6 shooting. All of the protests have been peaceful, unlike some of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore following the deaths of young black men in those cities.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin warned protesters Wednesday that anyone who broke the law would be arrested.
Police blocked off intersections and redirected traffic as the protesters marched through the streets, as volunteers from several community groups, including 100 Black Men and the Urban League, looked on. The volunteers said they were there to advise any protesters who looked like they might be considering breaking the law to think twice.
YGB leaders said whatever happened would depend on the police, and that they hoped officers wouldn’t act violently toward the demonstrators. Alix Shabazz implored her fellow protesters not to interact with the police.
“They are not your friend,” Shabazz told the crowd. “There is nothing positive that is going to come from that (interaction).”
Ozanne, who is biracial but who identifies as black, is Wisconsin’s first minority district attorney. He pointed out his racial heritage as he made the announcement, saying he views Robinson’s death through that lens but made his decision based on the facts.
“I am concerned that recent violence around our nation is giving some in our community a justification for fear, hatred and violence,” Ozanne said Tuesday. “I am reminded that true and lasting change does not come from violence but from exercising our voices and our votes.”
Police Chief Mike Koval said that he was “hoping for a different sort of outcome in our community in the days to come” than the unrest experienced elsewhere.
“I’m confident those outcomes can be more constructive,” he said.
According to witness accounts released by the state Department of Justice, Robinson was tripping on mushrooms at a friend’s apartment on the night he was killed and got violent. He tried to grab one friend’s crotch and took a swing at another friend. He later went outside and punched a man on the sidewalk, strangled another man at a gas station across the street, ran in and out of traffic and took a swing at a couple before going back inside.
Kenny responded to 911 calls and found the apartment house door open. He heard what he believed to be a disturbance in the upstairs apartment and thought someone was being attacked, he told investigators.
He drew his firearm and began to climb the stairs. He was near the top when he announced himself as a police officer. Robinson appeared and punched him in the head, he said.
Kenny said he was worried Robinson would knock him down the stairs, take his gun, shoot him and then kill whoever was in the apartment so he opened fire, hitting Robinson seven times. Kenny told the DOJ agent he couldn’t use nonlethal force because of “space and time considerations.”
Another officer arrived and checked the apartment only to find it empty.
“Stay with me. Stay with me,” Kenny said he told Robinson before paramedics arrived. As other officers led Kenny away, a responding firefighter told investigators she heard him swearing to himself over and over.
Ozanne said toxicology reports confirmed Robinson had taken mushrooms, smoked marijuana and taken Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.