Following weeks of peaceful protests, violence broke out on Tuesday night outside the Wisconsin State Capitol as protesters smashed windows, attacked a state senator, and pulled down two statues — including one of an abolitionist who died while trying to end slavery during the Civil War.
The protests began turning violent earlier in the day after Devonere Johnson, a black man, was arrested for having a megaphone and baseball bat when he entered Cooper's Tavern, a Capitol square restaurant.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers enlisted the Wisconsin National Guard to protect state buildings, including the Capitol.
State Sen. Tim Carpenter was assaulted during the protests as he took a photo of the 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," he told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter.
Evers stated that those responsible for assaulting the senator would be held accountable.
He said in a statement: "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. It should never be tolerated."
Protesters, who were calling for Johnson’s release, smashed windows and lights at the state Capitol, broke glass at the Tommy Thompson Center on West Washington Avenue, and set a small fire at the Dane County jail prior to police arrival just before 1 a.m.
Madison police officers documented Johnson’s arrest, writing: "Officers attempted to place him under arrest for his actions inside the restaurant. 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."
Madison Police Department stated that there were 200 to 300 protesters in the crowd that became violent.
The group entered a private condo building in Madison, surrounded a tow truck and forced the owner to abandon the vehicle. They then smashed windows and began tearing down the Capitol statues.
A molotov cocktail was thrown into the Madison and Dane County administration building which houses the county jail.
Police pepper sprayed the protesters from inside the state Capitol to stop them from getting into the building.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tweeted: "This is absolutely despicable. I am saddened at the cowardice of Madison officials to deal with these thugs,” and questioned why Evers hadn't intervened when the protesters began destroying the statues, which were on state Capitol property.