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Unrest In Madison, Wis., Overnight Leaves Statues Toppled, State Senator Injured

Two statues were torn down outside the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.
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Universal Images Group via Getty
Two statues were torn down outside the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.

Two statues toppled, including one of an abolitionist. Several windows smashed at the state Capitol. A state senator attacked by a group of demonstrators. A small fire set outside a local jail.

Those are some of the scenes that played out late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Wisconsin's capital of Madison.

The arrest of a Black man earlier Tuesday sparked the unrest. He was taken into custody after bringing a megaphone and a baseball bat into a restaurant on the city's Capitol Square.

The chaos that played out in Madison follows weeks of largely peaceful protests there and across the nation after last month's death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

Protesters continued to face off with police about a block from the Capitol early Wednesday, NPR member station Wisconsin Public Radio reported, adding that officers played a prerecorded message on a loop informing the crowd that it had gathered unlawfully.

The crowd, the station reported, responded to the message with chants.

The two statues that were removed from their pedestals have stood at the Capitol for decades.

One of the statues, of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg who died fighting for the Union during the Civil War, was dumped in a nearby lake. The other one, celebrating the state motto "Forward," was moved into the middle of a street near the Capitol, as WPR noted.

During the melee, Tim Carpenter, a Democratic state senator, was assaulted after snapping a photo of the protests, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"I don't know what happened ... all I did was stop and take a picture ... and the next thing I'm getting five-six punches, getting kicked in the head," Carpenter told the newspaper.

Carpenter later took to social media to respond to a reporter who posted an image of what appeared to be him on the ground in foliage.

"Punched/kicked in head, neck, ribs," Carpenter tweeted. "Maybe concussion, socked in left eye is little blurry, sore neck & ribs. 8-10 people attacked me. Innocent people are going to get killed. Capitol locked- stuck in office.Stop violence nowPlz!"

Attached to his tweet was an 11-second video in which two people with face coverings quickly approach him and grab at the phone. One person is heard yelling, "Delete it!" before the video shuts off.

Another reporter, Dylan Brogan, tweeted an image of Carpenter in what looks to be a heated discussion with protesters.

The demonstrations followed the arrest earlier Tuesday of a Black man, later identified as Devonere Johnson by the Journal Sentinel.

Video released by the Madison Police Department shows a Black man with a baseball bat and a bullhorn follow a white man into a bar near the statehouse. (Editor's note: This video contains explicit language.)

The Black man said, "You're a racist," and later asked, "Why are you a racist?"

He turned to the person filming the encounter to talk about how Jesus is not a man who had "blond hair, blue eyes and pink lips." He later exited the restaurant but continued to address the mostly white patrons outside. What he said outside is unintelligible.

"Officers attempted to place him under arrest for his actions inside the restaurant," Madison police officers wrote in a report, according to the Journal Sentinel.

According to The Associated Press, "as many as five officers can be seen taking the man to the sidewalk and carrying him to a police squad car after he initially resisted arrest."

The Journal Sentinel added that protesters demanding the man's release rallied near the Dane County jail and set a small fire there.

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Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.