MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Protesters took to the streets in Wisconsin for a second night on Monday, in the wake of a police shooting in Kenosha that has continued America’s reckoning with racial justice.
In Madison — about two hours northwest of where Kenosha police shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake multiple times in the back — it was an intense night as hundreds gathered to protest. Though the demonstrations began peacefully, later on some protesters lit fires, looted businesses, and faced off with police, a pattern that also showed up in protests in Kenosha that night.
The Madison protesters joined others across the country in calling for justice for Blake, who as of Tuesday is still in the hospital and reportedly paralyzed from the waist down, according to his attorney Ben Crump. Blake’s case has come to the forefront as a widely circulated video appeared to show police firing seven shots at him as he attempted to enter his car.
Smaller protests occurred in the city throughout the day. Previously announced plans included a call to action for the UW-Madison campus and the wider Madison community.
In the evening, numbers grew as protesters gathered near the State Capitol. A group marched down State Street starting around 9 p.m., according to WKOW. Protesters took a knee to block traffic as speakers talked about Blake’s case and others like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, before the group eventually turned back to the Capitol.
As of 10:30 p.m., the protests remained mostly peaceful as a couple hundred people gathered on Capitol Square. But shortly after, the mood grew increasingly confrontational, according to a Spectrum and other reporters at the scene.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that by 11:30 p.m., more than 1,000 protesters had gathered. Over the course of the night, a smaller segment split off of the main group and looted several businesses including Walgreens, a liquor store, and an eyeglass store, according to the Journal. The protesters caused extensive damage to Capitol Square, lighting fires, breaking windows, and spray painting slogans, the Journal reports.
Police faced off with the crowds, showing up in full riot gear and firing tear gas and sponge projectiles at protesters. The confrontations continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning, with police reporting that some protesters threw rocks, bottles, and other projectiles at officers.
Madison police say they arrested six people over the course of the night, one of whom was armed with a handgun, and will keep investigating to identify any additional suspects, according to a police report.
As of Tuesday morning, business owners were getting to work cleaning up after the night of unrest.
At a press conference with Madison officials Tuesday afternoon, Acting Police Chief Victor Wahl said about 40 businesses sustained damage, with “quite a few” hit by looting as well. He said police observed at least two instances of people trying to light buildings on fire, as well as multiple trash and dumpster fires, and said three officers were injured during the night.
Fire Chief Steven Davis added that some of the police deployed tear gas at the request of the fire department, to disperse crowds so that firefighters could stop buildings from igniting. As preventive measures for further expected protests, he encouraged Madison residents to safely secure any gas cans they had and said businesses should reduce any trash buildup.
“What we witnessed last night, and what we responded to as a fire department, was in my 31 years probably the most destruction and damage I've seen in this city,” Davis said. “As far as arson fires, and attempted arson, and a lot of the rioting and looting.”
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway released a statement Tuesday morning condemning what she referred to as “another night of looting and senseless destruction.” At the press conference, she said the city supports First Amendment rights, but they “draw the line” at property damage, theft, and arson — actions she said were counterproductive and divisive to the community.
“I understand that people are angry. I am angry,” Rhodes-Conway said. “But I am channeling my anger into finding solutions.”
Protests are expected to continue throughout Wisconsin on Tuesday. Madison organizers are planning a candlelight vigil and march at the Capitol for victims of violence, including Blake and 11-year-old Anisa Scott, who died after an August 11 shooting in Madison.
“We're not done until ALL Black people have what they need to live happy and healthy lives,” organizers write in the event description.