Wisconsin faith leaders seek justice at capital

Posted by: Gordon on 4/30/2015

In plenaries and visits with legislators, breakouts on driver’s cards for immigrants and parole for prisoners caught in a bureaucratic Catch-22, outrage was the word many used at United for Justice Madison Action Day.Pictures from Wisconsin Day of Action

All present focused on advocating for a better budget for Wisconsin – but news from Baltimore was on the minds of many. Hannah Rosenthal of Milwaukee Jewish Federation framed the day of advocating for social justice by noting that failing to address poverty in the state and inaction on criminal justice were an outrage. Rev. Everett Mitchell of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison called out the right of everyone present – white, black and all people – to protest in search of justice.

Wisconsin has 33 state senators. Constituents from every district but 3 turned out for the event, sponsored by WISDOM and 8 state faith groups and held every two years. More than 800 people met, marched, and spent the afternoon speaking with legislators in Wisconsin’s capital Wednesday. (News coverage by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel here).

The emphasis was on advancing the 11x15 criminal justice campaign for wholesale reform and smarter spending on corrections in the state, as well as passing driver’s cards for the undocumented and supporting transit statewide.

The state Legislature would approve driver’s cards if the state Assembly and Senate leadership let members vote on the issue, organizers said.

“Rev. Mitchell never said Baltimore, but he said people need to be able to protest in the streets,” said Rev. Steve Jerbi, of All People’s Church in Milwaukee, who noted his family has been working with the family of Dontre Hamilton, shot by Milwaukee police a year ago almost to the day. “He took an issue that urban communities face daily and made it accessible to the statewide audience in more than a sound bite.”

Jerbi said the difference from previous years he found most striking was the number of youth leaders who joined in this year. High school students from Beloit and Milwaukee were among the group.

One of those students, Martinez Milton, Jr., helps lead Milwaukee’s Generation Next, part of MICAH. He said being present for the day of action made him feel he was part of something larger: “I was very surprised how Rev. Mitchell connected to people -- it was surprising because for the first time I not only heard it, but when I heard it, I felt it. Today taught me how if I have any frustrations with the government, how to put them in an organized manner to go about addressing them in a great way.”

Photos: top, Generation Next leaders of MICAH were at the front of a march to and around the state capital; earlier, leaders, 800 strong, had opportunities to met each other in brief one to one conversations in the sanctuary of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison. Photos by Martinez Milton, Jr. 

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