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Madison mayor pledges to hold accountable violent and criminal protesters

GOP members criticize response to protests
Downtown protesters drag the statue of Hans Christian Heg after tearing it down Tuesday night.
Downtown protesters drag the statue of Hans Christian Heg after tearing it down Tuesday night.(WMTV)
Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 11:09 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway decried Tuesday nights violent protests, during which landmark statues were destroyed and a state senator was attacked, as “far from peaceful and exceeding(ly) dangerous.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Rhodes-Conway described the state senator who was allegedly assaulted, Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), as a champion for workers’ rights for nearly a decade and noted that one of the statues that was toppled honored Hans Christian Heg, who was an abolitionist who fought and died fighting for the North during the Civil War.

She also pointed out that protesters Tuesday night tried to set fire to a building with dozens of protesters inside. The Madison Police Dept. had earlier said someone tried throwing a Molotov cocktail through the broken glass of the City County Building.

“We need to separate First Amendment protests from those engaged in criminal conduct,” she said. “People engaged in violence and criminal conduct against people or property on the streets of Madison will be held accountable.

Rhodes-Conway noted that MPD’s investigation into the arrest downtown early Tuesday afternoon that sparked the day-long protests that turned violent after the sun went down. She added they plan to release more information as the investigation continues and police are still following up on a hit-and-run over the weekend.

The mayor continued her statement by detailing the initiatives and programs city leaders are working on “to reimagine public safety” and to engage with the community, adding that the Evers Administration has created proposals for police reform and racial equality as well.

Lawmakers Question the Response

Many state and federal lawmakers have decried the violence that took place around the Statehouse on Tuesday, with some GOP leaders criticizing or questioning political leaders and law enforcement response.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took aim at state, county, and local leaders. He stated that Governor Tony Evers’ position affords him command of the Wisconsin State Patrol, Capitol Police, and the National Guard. “Enough is enough,” the Juneau Co. Republican said. “The governor must step up and immediately put an end to this violence. He cannot allow this to continue.”

Fitzgerald also accused Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney of hiding. He urged them to use the policing forces at their disposal to better protect the Wisconsin capital, saying they need to “end this senseless destruction.”

U.S. Representative Bryan Steil questioned whether Rhodes Conway had asked the police to stand down and not to arrest anyone for Tuesday night’s incident.

So far, the Madison Police Dept. has not said if anyone has been arrested nor did they say that they had no plans to arrest anyone, although Rhodes-Conway has said people who committed criminal activity would be punished.

The Republican congressman represents Wisconsin’s 1st District, which extends from Janesville eastward.

Statement of Mayor Rhodes-Conway

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - 10:20am

Thousands of people have come out in Madison and around Wisconsin to protest the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many taken before them. I have heard from thousands of Madisonians in the past week, the vast majority of whom are supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and the peaceful protests that have occurred in Madison.

However, what happened last night in Madison was far from peaceful and exceeding dangerous. People attacked a State Senator who championed workers’ rights in 2011, tore down a statute of an abolitionist who died trying to end slavery during the Civil War, and attempted to set fire to a building with dozens of people inside. We need to separate First Amendment protests from those engaged in criminal conduct. People engaged in violence and criminal conduct against people or property on the streets of Madison will be held accountable.

Madison Police are involved in a wide-ranging investigation of activities that lead up to the arrest on the square yesterday and will have further information on this investigation when it is available. Officers are also investigating Sunday night hit and run involving a pick-up truck and a pedestrian.

People are asking for real, substantive changes, and the City is responding. The Council moved forward with the creation of an independent police auditor and an independent civilian police oversight committee, and we will continue to work to implement the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Task Force on Police Policy and Procedure. The Public Safety Review Committee and the City Attorney's office are reviewing the Madison Police Department's use of force policies, comparing them with the 8 can't wait standards, the NAACP recommendations, and other best practices from around the country, and will make recommendations for any needed changes. Our Community and Economic Development divisions are working to develop programs and move funds to support wealth-building, housing assistance, small businesses and more in the Black community. Alders are exploring the mental health ambulance model and how to adapt it for Madison. My office is engaging with the question of how to reimagine public safety, and working to engage the community in all of these issues. At the State level, the Governor and Lt. Governor introduced a strong package of proposals around police reform and racial equity.

Over the past weeks, we have heard chants of “who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” It’s time for that “us” and that “we” to include everyone in Madison. Because every single person who lives here deserves to be and feel safe in our City. And it is up to every single one of us to make that true. Everyone - police, protester, elected official, business owner, resident - everyone must find it within themselves to show compassion and kindness for each other, and to care about each other’s safety and well-being. ?

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

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