Unrest in Madison leads to state senator attacked, statues toppled
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A night of unrest in the capital city began with an arrest and ended with a state senator being beaten and two prominent statues being toppled.
The intensity of a protest Tuesday evening elevated after one protester had entered a restaurant with a megaphone and baseball bat and was later arrested.
Protesters then marched through downtown Madison, blocking traffic, intimidating bystanders and eventually making their way back to the Capitol Square.
Two statues – one of “Forward” and the other of Col. Hans Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who fought for the Union during the Civil War – were toppled by the crowd.
State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D – Milwaukee) was in the area when he said he wanted to take a picture of the protest. That is when video shows two people rushing at him and knocking the phone out of his hand. Carpenter wrote in a tweet, “Punched/kicked in the head, neck, ribs. Maybe concussion, socked in left eye is little blurry, sore neck & ribs. 8-10 people attacked me.”
Those actions drew condemnation by both Democrats and Republicans.
“If your goal was to advance social justice and policing reforms in the state of Wisconsin and making sure that systemic racism is a thing of the past, you failed,” Gov. Evers said in a radio interview Wednesday afternoon on 620 WTMJ. Evers added that the events of Tuesday night were in stark contrast to the weeks of peaceful protests in Wisconsin.
Evers authorized 50 Wisconsin National Guard members to assist local law enforcement in a limited manner if more activity required it Wednesday evening.
Republicans criticized protesters’ actions and said Evers and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway were slow to act to prevent violence.
“For those people who decided that the way to express themselves was through criminal acts and things that the entire state of Wisconsin now looks at our capital city in shock and awe, that is something that should never be tolerated,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) said in a news conference Wednesday. “We are here to stand with the citizens all across the state who are sick and tired of watching things happen around the state where protesters are not held accountable.”
Vos said leaders won’t be listening to violent actors in protests but noted the demands of peaceful protesters and said the Assembly leadership is having ongoing discussions with the Legislative Black Caucus about action that could take place in the Capitol. Last week, Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes rolled out a package of bills aimed at police accountability and transparency. The Assembly Speaker said he does not want to rush legislation and a realistic timeframe to pass bills will be after the election or in early 2021.
While state leaders criticized some of the actions by some protesters, those who participated in the event said they believe the toppling of statues should grab people’s attention and not draw more anger than the racial disparities in Wisconsin, which are among some of the worst in the country.
“The state of Wisconsin is false-flagging its values,” Ebony Anderson-Carter, a spokesperson for various groups involved in Tuesday’s protests, said in an interview with CBS 58’s Madison affiliate WISC News 3 Now. “These statues up here represent progression that African-Americans don't have.”
Anderson-Carter said the demands of protesters include the release of the man arrested Tuesday evening, reformed allocation of city resources away from police and to the community, the firing of Officer Matt Kenny from the Madison Police Department (Kenny shot and killed Tony Robinson, an unarmed biracial 19-year-old, in Madison in 2015) and a dialogue with the youth involved in the protest to work towards larger reform.
Anderson-Carter believes the toppling of the statues is a tactic aimed at driving the focus of conversation towards racial disparities in the state.
“I’m happy that they’re down because where is the progression in Wisconsin if we are living in the most racist state in the nation for African-Americans?”