Wisconsinites joined a national “Strike for Black Lives” advocating social and economic justice.
“If your business would fail to pay a living wage to your employees, your business deserves to fail,” said Erika Bach, who helped organize the rally in Madison. “If people can't live by working for you, what the heck are you doing in business?”
The Madison marchers were joined in the state by a group of close to 200 who rallied at a McDonalds in Milwaukee. Wanda Lavender, an minimum wage activist in Milwaukee, said it was an issue of survival.
“I want [my sons] to receive the same equal pay as a person of non-color to be able to survive and support [their] families when that time comes," she said.
In Madison, the protests carried overtones of the demonstrations that led to two statues being torn down at the state Capitol. The toppling of the statues, one embodying the state motto “Forward” and another of a Union Army colonel, received criticism from state legislators who introduced a bill to make destruction of public statues a felony.
The issue was still raw during Monday’s march.
“Human beings are being killed and statues are just things,” said activist Lorien Carter. “Your statues may be pretty, but ending the colonization and genocide of Black Indigenous people of color, well that's...beautiful.”
The demonstrations last month were sparked by the arrest of activist Devonere Johnson, known as Yeshua Musa, at a restaurant on the Capitol Square. Monday’s march took demonstrators by the restaurant.
“Restaurants like Coopers Tavern and other Food Fight [restaurant group] restaurants function in this capitalist realm,” said organizer Hannah Crossley. “They will do anything to protect their capital, including calling the police on a black man named Yeshua.”
Johnson was charged in federal court with extortion after allegedly entering the State Street restaurant and threatening to damage property unless he received payment.
The marchers said the actions of the restaurant were racist. They called on the restaurant and other local businesses to adopt policies of both racial and economic equality, charging that the current economic system is inextricably linked to white supremacy.
“We're going to ask these businesses to put their money where their mouth is,” Bach said. “If [they do not] we need to hold them accountable and not give them your patronage anymore.”