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“Forward” & Heg statues reinstalled after being toppled during last year’s protests

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:21 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The two downtown Madison statues that fell during last summer’s violent demonstrations stand tall outside the statehouse grounds once again.

On Tuesday, crews returned to the capitol to restore the “Forward” statue as well as the one honoring Col. Hans Christian Heg, more than a year after protestors tore them to the ground. Protestors had toppled the statues on June 23, following a day of demonstrations following the arrest of a Black man, Devonere Johnson, outside a Capitol Square restaurant.

The restoration work was done by Michigan based company Venus Bronze Works Inc and took nearly a year to complete.

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Administration told NBC15 that statue renovations cost more than $80,000 total. $60,000 of that was covered by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of Humanities. The remainder was covered through insurance and donations to the State Historical Society.

The "Forward" statue was reinstalled at the Wisconsin statehouse, in Madison, on Sept. 21, 2021.
The "Forward" statue was reinstalled at the Wisconsin statehouse, in Madison, on Sept. 21, 2021.(WMTV/Erin Sullivan)

The Forward statue came down first. Demonstrators descended on the Madison landmark around 10:30 p.m. As some demonstrators formed a perimeter around the statue to keep anyone from approaching, others wrapped a harness around it and pulled it to the ground.

Not long after that, protesters moved on to and brought down the one celebrating Hans Christian Heg, a Civil War hero who created the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, the so-called Scandiavian Regiment, and died in 1863 fighting the Confederates at the Battle of Chickmauga.

Protesters in Madison tear down the "Forward" statue near the capitol...
Protesters in Madison tear down the "Forward" statue near the capitol building. (WEAU)

Both the Forward statue and the statue of Hans Christian Heg were recovered by city workers early Wednesday morning, Alder Mike Verveer told NBC15 News at the time. He added the Forward statue was dragged about a block down State Street and was recovered near the Overture Center.

The Heg statue was dragged down King Street and eventually dumped into Lake Monona and needed to be pulled ashore by a heavy-duty tow truck. Verveer had indicated the Heg statue sustained some serious damage. The head of the statue was cut off and it was also missing a leg or a portion of a leg. Verveer is unsure if the head and leg have been recovered.

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)

In December, the state announced the $60,000 federal grant to pay to restore the seven-foot tall “Forward” statue and the 9′6″ tall statue of Heg. The grants were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I look forward to not only getting Col. Heg and Forward back up on their feet at the Capitol, but also exploring new options to make the Capitol grounds a more accurate reflection of our state’s diversity and history,” Evers said when announcing the grants.

Efforts to get the statues back in place were a collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Administration, State Capitol and Executive Residence Board and the State Historical Society.

He also established a committee to work on a proposal to erect a statue honoring Black leader and office holder Vel Phillips.

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