Wisconsin Protests Turn Violent as State Senator Is Attacked and Statues Are Pulled Down

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On Tuesday night, June 23, 2020, protesters outside the Wisconsin State Capitol allegedly smashed windows, attacked a state senator, and pushed over two historic statues.

During demonstrations in downtown Madison, a black protest organizer was arrested. According to police, Devonere Johnson, 28, walked into a restaurant speaking through a bullhorn and carrying a baseball bat. He was taken into custody but allegedly broke free from the back of a squad car. Then, he was tackled to the ground during the attempted escape, according to the Madison Police Department incident report.

During the alleged incident, two officers were injured. Johnson had injuries to his arms and leg. Tentatively, Johnson has been charged with disorderly conduct while armed, resisting arrest, and attempted escape, according to police.

Protesters were chanting for the release of Johnson and tore down the “Forward” statue. The protesters dragged the statue away from its base at the Wisconsin State Capitol. The bronze statue is over 100 years old, depicts a female figure standing in the prow of a boat. Her right hand is stretched out and her left-hand hold the American flag.

Shortly after toppling the “Forward” statue, the same group of protesters pulled down a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg and threw it into the lake that was nearby. Heg was a Norwegian immigrant and abolitionist who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He led the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment into battle against the Confederate Army until his death at Chickamauga in 1863.

Windows were smashed at the Tommy G. Thompson Center, which is a state government building named after the Republican governor who served Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001.

That same night, WKOW’s news crew ran into Democratic state Sen. Tim Carpenter. Carpenter told the crew that he took a picture of the protesters before they brutally attacked him. He collapsed while talking to WKOW and they called 911 for an ambulance. Carpenter’s condition is unknown at this time.

In response to a tweet by a WKOW reporter about the incident, Carpenter tweeted Wednesday morning that he had been punched and kicked in the head, neck, and ribs by multiple people.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement Wednesday morning:

What happened in Madison last night presented a stark contrast from the peaceful protests we have seen across our state in recent weeks, including significant damage to state property. Any single act of injustice against one person is less justice for all of us, and the people who committed these acts of violence will be held accountable. My thoughts are with Sen. Carpenter who was among the individuals attacked last night and wish him a quick recovery.

We are prepared to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to protect state buildings and infrastructure and are continuing to work with local law enforcement to understand their response to last night’s events and their plan to respond to similar events in the future.

These protests and the civil unrest comes after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed and handcuffed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, shortly after a white police officer was caught on film kneeling on his neck as three other officers stood by.

Demonstrations taking place around the world are demanding police reform and an end to police brutality and racial injustice.

These protests have also called into question the relevance of multiple statues and monuments that depict historical figures who are linked to racism, colonialism, and slavery.

By Jeanette Vietti


ABC News: Protestors allegedly attack state senator and topple statues outside Wisconsin State Capitol
Los Angeles Times: Crowds tear down statues outside Wisconsin Capitol, assault state senator
Washington Post: Wisconsin state senator attacked by protesters as demonstrations in Madison turn violent

Image Courtesy of Franco Folini’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License