University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students held signs, chanted and fell to the ground Tuesday to protest a grand jury's decision not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri, officer who killed a black 18-year-old.
Organized by student groups and Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen, they started by standing silently with signs like, "We are Michael Brown," who was killed in Missouri. They then chanted, "Hands up! Don't shoot," a refrain that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings, before about 50 people fell to the ground in the student union.
After a few minutes, they got up and people gathered in a circle and vented their anger over the grand jury's decision. It was a peaceful protest, although packed with emotion.
"I am not a target," yelled Lavelle Young, 22, president of the University of Wisconsin's Black Student Union. "I should not be a target because I'm black male."
Afterward, he said he didn't expect to get as emotional as he did. "It's inside of me because it can happen to us one day."
"I look at Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin as my brothers and it hurts me to see them gone," Young said.
Martin, a Florida teenager, was fatally shot by a neighborhood-watch organizer in 2012.
Missouri's governor ordered more National Guardsmen into Ferguson on Tuesday to keep order after a night of violence over the grand jury decision. Buildings and cars were set ablaze and businesses were looted and damaged.
Celena Allen, an 18-year-old freshman, said she was furious about the grand jury's decision. She said she wanted to attend the rally for her brother, who is darker-skinned.
"I don't want to worry about my brother," she said. "That is unacceptable."
Students also held signs that read "We are Dontre Hamilton," the black man killed by a white officer in Milwaukee in April. Supporters and family members held a rally later Tuesday at the downtown park where he died. No one was arrested, but a Milwaukee police sergeant and an officer were injured when some protesters later tried to enter BMO Harris Bradley Center before the Milwaukee Bucks game, police spokesman Lt. Mark Stanmeyer said. The officers have not sought medical attention, Stanmeyer said.
Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney shot 31-year-old Hamilton 14 times on April 30, sparking protests in Milwaukee. Police Chief Edward Flynn later fired Manney, saying the officer instigated the fight that led to the shooting. Manney has appealed Flynn's decision.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office said Tuesday it did not have a timeline on when he would decide on whether to charge Manney.
In Madison, a crowd of protesters marched downtown chanting the "Hands up! Don't shoot," mantra and "No justice, no peace. No racist police."
They gathered in front of the Dane County jail and railed against county officials' plans to build a new facility, saying the real violence against blacks in Wisconsin is their disproportionately high incarceration rate. They then circled the state Capitol square and the surrounding streets, blocking intersections and slowing rush-hour traffic.
"We are standing in the middle of the street," protester Brandi Grayson said, "because we are dying."
A Madison police spokesman didn't immediately return messages.