Wisconsin activates National Guard after police clash with protesters

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) activated the National Guard on Wednesday to protect state buildings amid unrest in the capital of Madison on Wednesday. 

“The protests in Madison last night resulted in serious injury to bystanders as well as significant damage to state property,” Evers said in a Wednesday statement. “The Wisconsin National Guard will serve in a limited authorization meant to make sure people can exercise their First Amendment rights while ensuring the safety of members of the public and state buildings and infrastructure.”

Demonstrators on Tuesday night toppled two statues outside of the Capitol, one depicting the fictional "Lady Forward" and another targeting anti-slavery activist Hans Christian Heg. Photos showed the Heg statue removed from its base and dumped in a nearby body of water.

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State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) said that he was assaulted by protesters and “kicked in the head” Tuesday night as he filmed demonstrators outside the state Capitol. He tweeted that he was “punched/kicked in the head, neck, ribs. Maybe concussion, socked in left eye is little blurry, sore neck & ribs. 8-10 people attacked me.”

Police said a group of 200 to 300 protesters also threw a Molotov cocktail into a government building and attempted to break into the Capitol on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. Police also used pepper spray on demonstrators.

Evers said the violence was in “stark contrast” to earlier peaceful protests. 

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“I want to be clear: violence against any person – whether in the middle of the street in broad daylight, at home trying to sleep, going for a run, or happening upon a protest as was the case last night – is wrong,” Evers said in his Wednesday statement.

Protester Micah Le said the statues torn down Tuesday night portray Wisconsin as progressive, but he told the AP that slavery has continued in the state in the criminal justice system.

Some of the demonstrations were fueled by the arrest of a protester, Devenore Johnson, a Black man who brought a megaphone and a baseball bat into an area restaurant.

"Officers attempted to place him under arrest for his actions inside the restaurant," Madison police officers wrote in a report obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Johnson resisted arrest and struggled with officers. ... Johnson was able to push past officers and escape from the squad car before being tackled as he attempted to escape." 

The protest also comes amid continued nationwide demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last month after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.