Gov­er­nor ac­ti­vates Guard af­ter Wis­con­sin vi­o­lence

2 stat­ues top­pled in wake of Black pro­tester’s arrest

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By Scott Bauer and Todd Rich­mond

MADI­SON, Wis. — Wis­con­sin Gov. Tony Evers ac­ti­vated the Na­tional Guard on Wed­nes­day to pro­tect state prop­er­ties af­ter a night of vi­o­lence that in­cluded the top­pling of two stat­ues out­side the state Capi­tol, one of which com­mem­o­rated an abo­li­tion­ist Civil War hero.

Pro­test­ers also at­tacked a state sen­a­tor, threw a Molo­tov cock­tail into a gov­ern­ment build­ing and at­tempted to break into the Capi­tol on Tues­day night, only to be re­pelled by pep­per spray from po­lice sta­tioned in­side. The vi­o­lence broke out as a group of 200 to 300 peo­ple protested the arrest of a Black man who shouted at restau­rant cus­tomers through a mega­phone while car­ry­ing a base­ball bat.

Evers, who toured the dam­age and said the vi­o­lence was in “stark con­trast” to ear­lier peace­ful protests, said he was ac­ti­vat­ing the Na­tional Guard “to make sure peo­ple can ex­er­cise their First Amend­ment rights while en­sur­ing the safety of mem­bers of the pub­lic and state build­ings and in­fra­struc­ture.”

Repub­li­can state law­mak­ers and oth­ers faulted Evers and Madi­son Mayor Satya Rhodes-Con­way for not mov­ing more quickly Tues­day to quell the vi­o­lence.

“The mob has be­come very bold,” said Madi­son Al­der­man Paul Skid­more. “They see they can get away with a lit­tle, and they inch for­ward more and more. (Down­town Madi­son) is a bat­tle zone right now, and I fear for my city.”

The vi­o­lence un­folded in a city long known as a lib­eral bas­tion with a his­tory of protest, dat­ing back to stu­dent demon­stra­tions on the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin cam­pus in the 1960s. About 100,000 peo­ple protested in 2011 over then-Gov. Scott Walker’s an­tiu­nion pro­pos­als.

It also ex­posed sim­mer­ing anger over the 2015 shoot­ing by po­lice of a Black man by an of­fi­cer who re­mains on the force.

The vi­o­lence started Tues­day af­ter Madi­son po­lice ar­rested a pro­tester who came to a restau­rant across the street from the Capi­tol with a base­ball bat on his shoul­der. Video re­leased by Madi­son po­lice shows the man, Devenore John­son, talk­ing through a mega­phone while walk­ing around the restau­rant’s out­door pa­tio and in­side, say­ing he’s “dis­turb­ing” the restau­rant and talk­ing about God and the po­lice be­fore walk­ing out.

On an­other video re­leased by po­lice, as many as five of­fi­cers can be seen tak­ing John­son to the side­walk and car­ry­ing him to a po­lice squad car af­ter he re­sisted arrest.

John­son was charged in 2015 with be­ing a pas­sen­ger in a stolen car, re­sist­ing an of­fi­cer and theft, ac­cord­ing to on­line court records. He pleaded guilty to be­ing a pas­sen­ger and was sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion. The fol­low­ing year he was charged with be­ing a party to armed rob­bery and theft. Un­der a plea deal, he was sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion af­ter plead­ing guilty to theft.

Po­lice said that Tues­day night a group of 200 to 300 peo­ple gath­ered and en­tered a pri­vate con­do­minium build­ing where they sur­rounded a tow truck, forc­ing the driver to aban­don it. The crowd broke win­dows in mul­ti­ple build­ings, threw a Molo­tov cock­tail into the city-county build­ing and brought down the stat­ues on the Capi­tol grounds.

Pro­test­ers chant­ing for John­son’s re­lease also broke glass at the Tommy Thomp­son Cen­ter, named for the for­mer Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, and smashed win­dows and lights at the Capi­tol.

Demo­cratic state Sen. Tim Car­pen­ter was as­saulted af­ter tak­ing a cell­phone video of pro­test­ers.

“Punched/kicked in the head, neck, ribs,” Car­pen­ter tweeted around 4 a.m. “In­no­cent peo­ple are go­ing to get killed.”

One of the stat­ues top­pled, de­cap­i­tated and dragged into a lake about a half-mile away was of Civil War Col. Hans Chris­tian Heg. He was an anti-slav­ery ac­tivist and leader of an anti-slave catcher mili­tia in Wis­con­sin who fought for the Union and died of in­juries suf­fered dur­ing the Bat­tle of Chicka­mauga.

The base of the Heg statue was de­faced with graf­fiti Wed­nes­day morn­ing that read “Fire Matt Kenny,” a ref­er­ence to a white Madi­son po­lice of­fi­cer who shot and killed Tony Robin­son, 19, in 2015. Kenny said Robin­son had at­tacked him.

Dane County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Is­mael Ozanne, who is Black, cleared Kenny of any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing and he re­mains a Madi­son of­fi­cer.

The other statue taken down rep­re­sents Wis­con­sin’s motto “For­ward.” It sat promi­nently out­side the Capi­tol, fac­ing the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin cam­pus and State Street, an av­enue lined with bars, restau­rants and small busi­nesses. That cor­ri­dor has been the tar­get of much of the van­dal­ism since the death of Ge­orge Floyd on May 25 in Min­neapo­lis af­ter a white po­lice of­fi­cer used his knee to pin the hand­cuffed Black man’s neck.

EMILY HAMER/WIS­CON­SIN STATE JOUR­NAL

The “For­ward” statue lies in the street Tues­day on Capi­tol Square in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin.

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