News & Politics

Enraged Madison Protesters Assault State Senator, Tear Down Statue of Abolitionist

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Black Lives Matter protesters in Madison, Wisc., became angry when one of their leaders was arrested by police. Devonere Johnson, a local activist and organizer, was arrested after following a white customer into a restaurant with a bullhorn and a baseball bat. Johnson said the white man “provoked” him.

Johnson began shouting into the bullhorn, calling the white man a “racist” and ranting on about the pyramids, slavery, and other unintelligible things.

After this unhinged display, Johnson was taken into custody.

But the mob apparently believed Johnson did nothing wrong — at least, nothing that he should have been arrested for. They gathered in front of the capitol building on Tuesday night and decided to go on a statue-destroying binge.

Except, the statues they tore down represented the finest of Wisconsin’s progressive past.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Protesters, chanting for the release of the man who’d been arrested earlier, also broke glass at the Tommy Thompson Center on West Washington Avenue, smashed windows and lights at the state Capitol, and set a small fire at the Dane County jail before police arrived just before 1 a.m.

The destruction followed similar incidents in cities nationwide following the death of Floyd in Minneapolis. But in other cities, statues of Confederate soldiers and other symbols of slavery were destroyed.

In Madison, statues of Wisconsin’s motto “Forward” and of Col. Hans Christian Heg were dragged away from their spots guarding the statehouse. Heg was an anti-slavery activist who fought and died for the Union during the U.S. Civil War. His nearly 100-year-old sculpture was decapitated and thrown into a Madison lake by protesters.

One can almost imagine the conversation between activists before tearing down Heg’s statue.

Protester #1: Hey! We shouldn’t be doing this. This was one of the good guys, man.

Protester #2: He’s not good, He’s white, ain’t he? It’s a statue, ain’t it? Off with his head!

The “Focus” statue had stood in front of the capitol since 1885. A replica replaced the original in the 1990s.

Unfortunately, Democratic Governor Tony Evers was nowhere to be seen. He apparently is one of those Democrats who think it’s a healthy way to express yourself when tearing down historic works of art.

Tuesday night’s violence drew the fury of the Republican leader of the state Assembly, who called the protesters who knocked down the statues “thugs.”

“This is absolutely despicable. I am saddened at the cowardice of Madison officials to deal with these thugs,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, tweeted as the statues were being torn down.

Vos also questioned why Gov. Tony Evers hadn’t intervened in the destruction of the statues, given it took place on state Capitol property. Protesters also broke windows of a state building near the Capitol which houses the state jobs agency, among other state offices.

The state senator who was assaulted, Democrat Tim Carpenter, was a little bewildered. He says all he was doing was taking pictures of the riot — probably to approvingly share on social media later — when he was jumped by some “peaceful protesters.”

“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 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel following the attack.

Senseless, mindless barbarism. I don’t know what else to call it.