The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Dane Co. supervisors ask sheriff not to use county resources to break up UW encampments

Kyle Jones

MADISON, Wis. — A group of Dane County Board Supervisors sent an open letter to Sheriff Kalvin Barrett on Thursday, asking him to not use county resources to break up ongoing protests on the UW-Madison campus.

Dane County Sheriff’s deputies worked with UW-Madison police officers and other law enforcement to disperse an encampment on Library Mall Wednesday morning. In total 34 people were arrested, though only four were taken to the Dane County Jail. UWPD officials said three deputies were injured during confrontations with protesters Wednesday morning.

2:14+2 Protesters, tents return to Library Mall after Wednesday morning arrests

Students have gathered on Library Mall since Monday morning, calling on UW-Madison to divest from groups that they say are funding genocidal actions by the Israeli government against Palestinians in Gaza. The protest comes as college students across the country gather to call for similar divestments by their respective schools.

In Thursday’s letter, Dane County Supervisors Heidi Wegleitner, Jay Brower, April Kigeya, Kierstin Huelsemann, Henry Fries, Tommy Rylander, Rick Rose Yogesh Chawla and Michele Doolan said that First Amendment rights on campuses like UW-Madison must be preserved.

“The ongoing war in Gaza has surfaced many strong feelings, which will continue to build pressure around the demonstration,” the supervisors wrote. “As public officials, acting in the public’s interest, we must not succumb to any impulse for action that will silence activists working to shape public discourse through peaceful means.”

While protests at UW-Madison have remained peaceful, university officials have maintained that tents set up on campus are in violation of university policy and Wisconsin state law.

“We do not approve of the use of any county resource, law enforcement or otherwise, to remove anyone from the current encampment or any other future demonstrations who is acting in a peaceful manner for the primary purpose of engaging in protected First Amendment activities,” the supervisors said. “The utilization of county resources in support of any such action constitutes a failure of our leadership and is an inappropriate use of public monies.”

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said Wednesday that, while the university respects protesters’ right to freedom of speech, there are consequences for violating the law.


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