- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Social justice advocates plan to shut down the city of Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, to draw attention to what they say is a trend of white police officers using excessive use of force against minorities, but keeping their jobs and receiving little or no punishment.

Wednesday “will be our first day of action, and we’re calling it Black Out Wednesday,” said Brandi Grayson, co-founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, located in Madison. “We’re asking people not to go to school, not to go to work, to basically not take part in a daily routine and, in essence, shut the city down by coming out and supporting — and demanding — justice.”

The protest is in response to the March death of 19-year-old Tony Robinson Jr., an unarmed biracial teenager who was shot and killed by Officer Matt Kenny, a white 45-year-old member of the Madison Police Department.

On Tuesday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not bring any charges against Officer Kenny.

Mr. Ozanne said Officer Kenny only fired the deadly shots after he had been punched in the head and reached the point where he was worried that one more blow to his body would cause him to lose consciousness and control of his weapon.

“I conclude that his tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force, and that no charges should be brought against Officer Kenny,” Mr. Ozanne said.

After shooting the young man several times at close range within a three-second time frame, the Madison cop notified authorities of the shooting and requested an ambulance.

Toxicology reports confirmed that Robinson had been using hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, Mr. Ozanne added.

Still, the decision doesn’t sit well with protesters like Ms. Grayson.

Her group has called for a “Black Spring,” which is a self-styled hopeful campaign to spark a revolution similar to the Arab Spring that rocked the Middle East in 2011.

Ms. Grayson, 35, said she co-founded the advocacy group after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, was gunned down by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests and riots in Ferguson in 2014 in the wake of Brown’s death sparked unrest across the nation as people in multiple cities began calling for police reform, coalescing around each new officer-involved shooting.

That cycle of civil turbulence is expected to continue this week, she said.

“We value property more than we value black bodies, and that’s what we’re reminded of today,” Ms. Grayson said.

Before announcing his decision not to press charges against Officer Kenny, Mr. Ozanne made public an unusual amount of detail about the fatal incident. The transparency attempted to cushion the anticipated backlash in a famously liberal university town in the middle of a state that, Madison and Milwaukee aside, is fairly conservative and mostly white.

Mr. Ozanne depicted a young man who was acting out of control, jumping in front of cars, chasing and randomly attacking people and causing panicky 911 calls.

Mr. Ozanne appealed for calm and reminded the public that violence does not beget “true and lasting change.”

The investigation findings laid out by Mr. Ozanne show that Robinson was not in his right mind at the time of the shooting, but failed to examine whether Officer Kenny’s decision to shoot him was justified, said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.

“I was struck by the fact that the district attorney spent so much time talking about how he ran out into traffic, and he did this, he did mushrooms, or whatever,” Mr. Ahmuty said. “That’s besides the point when you’re trying to determine criminal liability.”

Mr. Ahmuty said the Madison PD may need a federal pattern or practice investigation, which focuses on whether the police have a pattern of targeting minorities. The Justice Department did such an investigation on the Ferguson Police Department after state and federal grand juries both declined to bring criminal charges in the Brown shooting.

At this point, it remains unclear whether Madison police officers are doing everything they can to adhere to department policies, particularly those that apply to dealing with people who have mental health problems, he said.

“The fact that there are all these fatal shootings in Madison — six since November 2012 — that’s part of the evidence that you would look at to bring a pattern or practice investigation,” he said. “There’s obviously a problem. Something is going on.”

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