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Freedom Inc. rallies for police-free schools statewide, refuses to condemn Tuesday’s violence

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After four years of demanding police-free schools, Freedom, Inc. said the Madison School Board could be days away from ending its contract with police.

The group organized a rally at the Capitol to celebrate the decision and commend protesters for helping turn the tide of public opinion over the past month.

"We are fighting for the abolition of systems, the ending of systems, the removal of systems that harm us and we are not compromising on that," said the executive director of Freedom, Inc. M Adams. "I think that position and that posture of defending Black life is different and this particular movement people are paying attention to now."

Those protests included a caravan of cars to school board president Gloria Reyes' home to demand change. Now Adams said Reyes has promised the board has the votes to end the contract at their meeting on Monday.

Adams and Freedom, Inc. argue that police officers in school don't make every student feel safe and protected. They said students of color feel targeted with police in schools and that's one of the reasons they believe those students disproportionately face punishment.

"We think that schools should be sites of creativity, of learning, of leadership for Black people and not sites of violence and pathways into prison and incarceration which they are when police are there," she said.

Adams said the group's advocacy still has a long way to go. She said their next goal is to get schools across Wisconsin to eliminate their School Resource Officer contracts.

That's why they marched to the Department of Public Instruction to raise their own flags in front of the building reading "Police Free Schools."

Instead, Adams said she wants the state and districts to fund positive programming.

"We are also fighting for things that are life affirming that build up the infrastructures, the institutions, the culture, the dignity of Black people," she said.

Freedom, Inc. has been very active organizing much of the daytime protests Madison's seen through the past month. The group has not been directly involved in the nightly gatherings on the Capitol Square or any of the violent demonstrations, though the group defended the riots from late May.

On Wednesday, Sheriff David Mahoney called out the group by name after crowds toppled statues, vandalized buildings and assaulted two people, in the wake of demonstrations regarding the arrest of a prominent protester.

He called on the organization to publicly disparage the acts of violence.

Adams tells 27 News she won't.

"We instead believe and empathize with those survivors. We instead defend and believe those survivors have the right to live," she said.

Adams said Freedom, Inc. will not place judgment on any act of protest from an oppressed group, no matter the form. Instead, she calls on Mahoney and his department to end their violence.

"What police departments can do is stop killing Black people," he said. "And what this government can do is stop killing and sanctioning the murder and death of Black people. It seems to me we all should be on the side of that instead of trying to be upset about if, something not living, like a statue, is standing or not."

She said a transformation at the state level will allow oppressed groups to feel safe expressing themselves without violence.

"You have to be for fundamentally changing this society so victims do not have to fight back," she said.

Adams believes that transformation comes after defunding the police and providing community control. She said with the proper resources such as education and health care, communities can police themselves.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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