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Die-in photo

Students stage a "die-in" Sunday evening at UW-Madison's Helen C. White Library to protest unarmed racial inequality and black men who have died in police encounters. 

Cries for racial equality disrupted finals week preparation across UW-Madison as hundreds of people, mostly students, marched through campus Sunday evening in response to a string of high-profile police and civilian killings of unarmed black men.

At 5 p.m., UW Police estimated 200 to 300 people had gathered around President Abraham Lincoln’s statue on Bascom Hill for the beginning of the protest.

But after half an hour of speeches, poetry and chanting, the crowd swelled to more than 800 as it snaked its way through campus, down Bascom Hill, along Park and Dayton streets and then through East Campus Mall before ending at Helen C. White Library.

Police blocked vehicle traffic at intersections along the way to allow marchers to pass safely.

Loud chants of “black lives matter,” “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace” echoed through campus. Along the march’s route, hundreds of other students paused in Ogg Hall and Gordon Commons in front of windows to see what the noise was about.

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At the library, the protest quieted as marchers entered the building and sat on the floors before staging a “die-in,” similar to the sit-ins at white lunch counters during the civil rights movement.

The event was designed to “raise awareness about the glaring racial issues present on the UW-Madison campus” and beyond, according to event organizers.

One sign highlighted a 2011 campus incident in which a black Spider-Man doll was suspended by a noose at a Langdon Street apartment building. The imagery caused anger from many on campus.

Miona Short, a sophomore from Chicago, said she felt compelled to set aside studying for a physics exam to join the protest. “We can no long accept black death as a trend,” said Short, 19. “We’re using our voices to make sure the university and Wisconsin know that we’re serious.”

UW Police Lt. Aaron Chapin said the event went off without any problems, which he credited to the organizers.

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