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At a Black Lives Matter protest in Madison on March 7, 2015. (Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

As Tony Robinson Laid to Rest, Calls for Action Grow

'Every one of us must be a part of the solution. Black lives have to matter to each and every one of us.'

Deirdre Fulton

Funeral services for Tony Robinson, the unarmed, biracial 19-year-old shot dead by a white Madison, Wisconsin police officer last week, are being held on Saturday.

Preliminary autopsy results, released Friday, show Robinson was shot in the head, torso, and right arm, according to news reports.

Madison police have said Officer Matt Kenny shot Robinson multiple times during an altercation in an apartment. Kenny arrived at the scene following 911 reports that Robinson was running in and out of traffic and acting agitated.

The Guardian explored the incident as well as Robinson's early life and teen years in a piece published Friday.

"The community is still reeling from Robinson’s death," wrote journalists Oliver Laughland and Zoe Sullivan. "Many questions remain unanswered, and protesters have vowed to continue mobilising on the issue."

On Monday, close to 2,000 high school and college students occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol demanding "Justice for Tony."

According to the Washington State Journal:

More than 40 Madison City Council members, School Board members and Dane County Board members signed a joint statement released Friday calling Robinson's death a "horrible tragedy."

"Many of the incidents, shootings and deaths that we see reported on the news find their root cause in the intolerable (racial) disparity present in our community," they said in the letter.

"We are here to ask each of our constituents to accept along with us the challenge of ending the shameful racial disparities in our community," the letter said. "Every one of us must be a part of the solution. Black lives have to matter to each and every one of us."

At a forum organized by African-American church leaders on Friday evening, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval asked for the community's forgiveness. "I desperately seek that," he said.

But in an op-ed published Friday, Alix Shabazz and Brandi Grayson, of Madison's Young Gifted and Black coalition, called for action, not words.

"The 'kinder and gentler'—and media-friendly—approach of the Madison Police Department after Tony Robinson’s death might look good in pictures and headlines, but it means nothing for the lives of black people here who live through—or die from—state violence," they wrote. 

Shabazz and Grayson added:

We believe that both the murder of another unarmed black youth and the building of a new jail which will primarily house black people are state violence, a term which encompasses both immediate acts of violence by the state (like stop and frisks, or police shootings) and "slower" forms of violence that the state sanctions, condones or enables (like poverty, segregation, surveillance, militarization and incarceration).

We are calling for the Madison Police Department, the City of Madison and Dane County to end state violence that they perpetuate. Officer Matt Kenny should be immediately fired, and officials should implement a policy of firing any officer who kills an unarmed civilian. A community-appointed police accountability board – with a say in hiring and firing decisions – must be established to review police activity in our communities. And we demand a moratorium on plans to build or renovate jails in the county; that money should instead be invested in black community-led initiatives and infrastructure, through which we can effect real change in the lives of the people in the other Madison.

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