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Youth activists complete Black, LGBTQ rights march from Milwaukee to Madison
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Youth activists complete Black, LGBTQ rights march from Milwaukee to Madison

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A group of youth activists finished a 65-mile march from Milwaukee to Madison on Saturday with rallies at the state Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion.

On the steps of the Capitol facing State Street, members of 50 Miles More — fresh off the five-day walk — took turns on a “soap” box. Shielded from the intense midday sun by a black umbrella, they made passionate calls for transformational change to systems that marginalize Black and Black LGBTQ communities.

“Yes, we’re all fighting the same fight, but we have to stand together,” said Chris Washington, who raised both fists before the crowd to represent “freedom and solidarity.”

The demonstrators recited poetry, sang and shared personal stories. Many onlookers wore black to support the youth protesters.

Among the speakers was Lorien Carter, whose nephew Tony Robinson was fatally shot by a Madison police officer in 2015.

“I support them 100%,” she said. “I’ve watched these 18- to 21-year-olds have bigger and better conversations than I’ve seen adults have in my entire life.”

Later in the afternoon, the group proceeded to the Governor’s Mansion in Maple Bluff, briefly blocking traffic on East Washington Avenue around 3 p.m.

The group is calling for Gov. Tony Evers to condemn the use of tear gas and sponge rounds by police to quell violent outbursts during the protests following the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, as well as for special legislative sessions on gun and police reform, and for state lawmakers to support Black Lives Matter.

The 50 Miles More march follows in the footsteps of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. In 2018, the group organized a similar march from Madison to Janesville, the hometown of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, to demand gun-control legislation.

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Howard Hardee is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has written extensively about government, natural disasters and forest health in northern California.

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