Rallying for Trayvon and Bo

March 29, 2012

Bo Morrison was a lot like Trayvon Martin--murdered for being young and Black. Elizabeth Wrigley-Field reports on a protest calling for justice.

ON MARCH 27, some 200 people gathered at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison campus for a speak-out for Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison.

Morrison was a 20-year-old unarmed Black man from Slinger, Wis., who was shot dead by white homeowner Adam Kind in the early hours of March 3. Morrison was on Kind's porch to avoid being caught for underage drinking when police broke up the party he had been attending at a friend's house up the street.

In a chilling echo of Martin's murder, Kind has not been arrested—his killing of Morrison was deemed by the sheriff's office to be self-defense under the state's Castle Doctrine.

The speak-out opened with several of Morrison's friends addressing the crowd. "The things that struck everyone about Bo were his huge hugs and his huge smile," his friend Tiffany Schroeder told a tearful audience.

The speak-out, organized by the International Socialist Organization, was scheduled to last for one hour, but ran for more than an hour and a half because so many people wanted to speak.

Students rally at University of Wisconsin in Madison to demand justice for Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison
Students rally at University of Wisconsin in Madison to demand justice for Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison

Several students from Madison's West High School skipped some afternoon classes to attend the speak-out. SaVance Ford, a West High junior, told the crowd, "I feel like I'm not even safe in this country. It's hard to have to feel like that in a country that preaches freedom and equality and justice."

The safety theme was echoed by many speakers. Colin Bowden, a UW-Madison graduate, talked about what "safety" means for him living on nearby Langdon Street, which hosts Madison's fraternity row. Two weeks ago, two Black women students walking outside one of the fraternities were taunted with racial and class-based slurs and had a glass bottle thrown at them. Last summer, a different fraternity on Langdon held a mock lynching of a black Spiderman doll.

"If I'm found, and a white person is found with marijuana, I'm 100 times more likely to go to prison in this county, according to the county's own statistics," Bowden said. "So when we talk about 'safety,' I think we need to keep it real."

Akilah Mason, a UW-Madison freshman, also spoke about whose safety is really threatened. "I want to make this country safer," she said. "I look at my brother, and he's 4 years old. I fear for him. This system is just so fucked up. I look at him and wonder. Is he going to get caught up in the criminal justice system, or is somebody going to shoot him? I want to see this change. And I'm tired."

Many participants expressed, amid their anger and grief, relief that Martin's and Morrison's deaths were being acknowledged on campus, and their determination to prevent further racist violence. UW-Madison freshman Shayla Glass said in an interview, "I think we need to send a message to America that killing African American men because they look suspicious isn't right. The justice system needs to take care of it, because it's been going on too many years without consequences."

The speak-out followed a moving vigil of about 25 students the previous day organized by the Black Law Student Association.

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