Governor authorizes National Guard for protests in Madison; 9:30 p.m. curfew for downtown

MADISON — At the request of City of Madison leaders, Governor Tony Evers Sunday, May 31 authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to support the Madison community’s response "to agitators that have disrupted peaceful protests following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer."

According to a news release from the governor's office, pursuant to Section 321.39(1)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes, the governor has ordered into state active duty members of the Wisconsin National Guard necessary to support local law enforcement in Dane County, beginning immediately. Any members called to active duty may only be used to provide support to local law enforcement and to protect critical infrastructure, such as utilities and fire stations, and cultural institutions necessary for the well-being of the community. The National Guard may not be used to impede the ability of people to peacefully protest or interfere with the media’s ability to report on these activities.

Gov. Evers said this in a statement Sunday:

“It is critical that people are able to peacefully and safely express their anger and frustration about systemic racism and injustice. Last night in Madison, we unfortunately saw a few bad actors commit acts of vandalism and violence that put people at risk. It was very clear those who were peacefully protesting were also taking great efforts to deescalate the instigators, at times subjecting themselves to violent outbursts. This limited authorization of citizen soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard will help protect people who are exercising their First Amendment rights and ensure the safety of the public.”

Hundreds of volunteers gathered early Sunday morning in downtown Madison to clean up after a night of violent protests over the death of George Floyd in which a police car was burned, businesses were broken into and a museum and other buildings were vandalized.

More than a thousand people held a peaceful protest Saturday afternoon in the Wisconsin capital, but like many of the protests around the country over the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, it later took a violent turn, with a group of about 150 demonstrators throwing rocks at police in riot gear who fired tear gas on the crowd.

Police said Sunday that 75 stores were damaged or broken into overnight and three people were arrested. One police officer was injured, but protective equipment prevented more serious injuries, acting Police Chief Victor Wahl said in a blog post.

One Madison police cruiser was broken into, driven a short distance and then set on fire, police said. Two rifles were stolen from the car, police said, noting that an armored police rescue vehicle was also hit by a bullet and multiple small fires were set and extinguished in the area.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway declared a state of emergency and imposed a 9:30 p.m. Sunday curfew in downtown Madison where the previous night's unrest occurred. Gov. Tony Evers authorized Madison authorities' request for help from the Wisconsin National Guard, and troops will be available Sunday, said his spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff.

Most of the damage was to stores located near the state Capitol, but police said stores throughout the city, including at shopping malls several miles away, were also damaged.

Among the businesses that were targeted was the gift shop at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, where several protesters threw large chunks of concrete through the display window. A man who tried to stop them was knocked to the ground as protesters knocked items off the store shelves, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Floyd, who was black and handcuffed, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground for several minutes while Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. The officer was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday. He and the other three officers who were arresting Floyd were fired on Tuesday. None of the other officers have been charged.