Evers on state, national and global protests: ‘Never witnessed anything like this’
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – In a one-on-one interview, Gov. Tony Evers said he has never seen a movement as broad and as powerful as the current Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd and believes it is an opportunity that will lead to change.
“I personally have never witnessed anything like this,” Evers told CBS 58. The governor recalled the Vietnam War era protests as a significant movement during his lifetime, but says the current movement is unprecedented, noting that in Wisconsin alone, the protests are not just contained in Milwaukee and Madison, but rural areas as well.
“I am hopeful that this will be a watershed moment for the state of Wisconsin and for our nation.”
While Evers concedes this is not the first time there have been protests over the death of a black man at the hands of police, he said the diversity in people protesting is a sign of progress. Evers said he has talked with community leaders who share his optimism.
“We know the answers, we’ve done this before,” Evers said of the issue of policing. “We want action and so I’m very hopeful both at the local level and the state level that that becomes our mantra.”
One of the demands of protesters around the country and in Wisconsin has been to defund police. On Monday night, protesters painted the words “DEFUND POLICE” in large, yellow letters along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Madison leading up to the Capitol. Evers did not give a full endorsement of the phrase, saying it means something different to different people. The democratic governor said police departments will and should still exist, but that community priorities over funding need to change.
“I think we need to invest more in our social fabric,” Evers said. “Whether it’s around issues around housing, issues around mental health, addiction; those community services need to be provided at a higher level, so that the role of police in intervening is less.”
The Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday sent a letter to Governor Evers asking for him to call a Special Session this month to pass legislation to address police use of force policies. The Legislature is controlled by Republicans and both chambers have finished their work for the year, though they could return in a special or extraordinary session.
Evers said calling a special session or issuing executive orders may not lead to concrete results which is why, for now, he is holding off on such moves.
“I prefer action that is going to result in something,” Evers said. “I think executive orders are important but I think they are more a statement of attempt rather than actually accomplishing something so we need to have the Legislature involved in this conversation.”