City of Madison attempt to remove ‘Police free schools’ street mural blocked by protesters

Elizabeth Beyer & Emily Hamer:

West Dayton Street outside of the Madison School District administration building became the latest field where protesters and city employees faced off in a battle of wills Friday morning.

The city’s Streets Division crew attempted to remove a mural on the road that read “Police free schools,” which was painted onto the asphalt by Madison youth in June, when a group of demonstrators arrived to protect the work.

The paint-removal process stopped partway through the “P” in “Police” due to concerns for the safety of both the city workers and the protesters, City of Madison streets and recycling coordinator Bryan Johnson said in a statement.

According to Johnson, the city wants to remove the painting on the street because it causes a traffic hazard by covering the double yellow traffic lines and obscuring the pedestrian crossings.

“It is already apparent that this will be an expensive project as removing paint from just one street is expected to cost approximately $8,000,” Johnson said. “The Streets Division will continue to work on ways to address safety issues in the areas where streets have been painted.”

Madison Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley said methods of keeping the city streets safe while compromising with the protesters will be revisited and discussed with city staff and others.

Starting this fall, the Madison School District will no longer station police officers at any of the city high schools after a unanimous vote by the School Board at the end of June to cancel its contract with the Madison Police Department. The motion went before the Madison City Council in July, which upheld the decision.