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2nd night of tear gas, vandalism: Hundreds defy city curfew to protest Downtown

2nd night of tear gas, vandalism: Hundreds defy city curfew to protest Downtown

From the Pain and protest: Madison responds to the police killing of George Floyd series
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For a second night hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Downtown Madison after a city-imposed curfew failed to prevent a repeat of the chaos that followed peaceful daytime demonstrations over the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody.

By 10 p.m. police deployed tear gas on the Capitol Square as hundreds of people rallied in the streets, chanting "this is not a riot, this is a revolution." The city of Madison-imposed curfew was applied from 9:30 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.

Following a peaceful protest earlier in the evening, the crowd increased in size as the night went on. In an instant, calm turned to chaos as the crowd ran back and forth while law enforcement and the National Guard organized into lines and deployed tear gas.

Much of the night after 10 p.m. consisted of standoffs between law enforcement and protesters that took place throughout the Downtown area, dying down about 2 a.m. Law enforcement occasionally pepper sprayed individual protesters to force them to retreat. They did so despite pleas from protesters not to spray them and despite the fact some protesters and other witnesses didn't appear to do anything to provoke law enforcement.

Some protesters threw objects at armored police officers and National Guard members, who stood their ground and worked methodically to disperse the crowd. There were some broken building and car windows in the area as of early Monday morning, including the front door of Stop and Shop Grocery on State Street, though not to the same extent as on Saturday night.

Some — perhaps about half — of the protesters wore face masks, heeding guidance from health officials to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. But many appeared to ignore social distancing recommendations and stayed within 6 feet of each other. Some temporarily stopped vehicle traffic by dragging traffic cones, garbage cans and tires across streets that hadn't been blocked by police.

Madison police said protesters had become violent, throwing rocks at them and assaulting an officer. Around midnight, protesters scattered throughout downtown started fires in trash bins and rolled them down the street. On Langdon Street, they also lit several posts onto which flyers were attached, which Madison firefighters promptly extinguished.


Protesters confront police officers on Capitol Square Sunday night.

About 1 a.m., after police warned that curfew violators would be arrested, at least two protesters were arrested on State Street. But many others were allowed to continue moving about, and it's not clear how many were arrested overall. Around 2 a.m., after dozens of police and National Guard members left the immediate area to rest several blocks away on Gilman Street, numerous people still lingered along State Street. 

And in what Sun Prairie Police said was related activity, two people were arrested after a looting incident at the Target store at 660 S. Grand Ave. According to a press release, police responded to the store at 10:43 p.m. to find several vehicles leaving the parking lot, one of which clipped a police vehicle.

Police used a spike strip to stop a different one of the fleeing vehicles, and arrested Casimer D. Kipton, 40, of Madison, and Lavette L. Brown, 34, of Madison, on burglary-related and other charges. Police said they recovered Target merchandise from the vehicle. The incident remains under investigation.

Hours earlier a smaller crowd gathered Downtown to peacefully protest the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis less than a week ago. One of the officers involved was charged with homicide Friday.

The earlier group began gathering on Capitol Square at the top of State Street around 6 p.m., hours before a 9:30 p.m. city-imposed curfew was set to take place.

Around 8 p.m., the group gained numbers, and protesters continued to march around Capitol Square after making rounds up and down State Street, with a heavy police presence in the Downtown area. Gov. Tony Evers gave the authorization for between 100 to 200 Wisconsin National Guard troops to support police in Madison.

Around 9:30, with the curfew in place, a much larger crowd of hundreds of people, most of them in their teens and twenties, began marching around Capitol Square. Once they reached the area near the Old Fashioned restaurant, the presence of law enforcement in riot gear grew and they began deploying tear gas.  

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and city leaders called on the community to come together and heal earlier Sunday after destruction erupted Saturday on State Street.

Some of the people gathered at the protest said they planned to stay out past the enforceable curfew in order to continue their demonstration.

"That's when you're imposing on free will," said Shyelle Smith, 24, of Madison. "When you're telling me that I can't peacefully protest for injustices in this … system, I don't stand for that."

Smith, who attended Saturday's protest, said she decided to attend Sunday's gathering to use her voice to bring change.

Smith said she doesn't endorse the looting and destruction that occurred Saturday, but others interviewed said some of the rioting happened for a good reason, but didn't condone those who stole for their own personal gain.

"Some of these places were broken into, absolutely nothing was taken because the people that knew and that were rioting for a reason, it was for the damage, not to obtain things," said Duowan Rimson, 35, of Madison.

Wisconsin State Journal reporters David Wahlberg and Elizabeth Beyer contributed to this report.

Photos: Vandalism, tear gas envelop Downtown Madison in second night of protests


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