Tensions grow as hundreds meet for second day of protests in downtown Madison


MADISON, Wis. — Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Madison on Sunday for another day of protesting the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis last week.

The crowd met around 6:30 p.m outside of the Wisconsin State Capitol and marched up and down State Street several times chanting “Say his name, George Floyd” and carrying Black Lives Matter signs.

The protest also featured speeches from the grandmother and aunt of Tony Robinson, a black teen killed by a Madison police officer five years ago following an incident on Madison’s near east side. Robinson was unarmed when he was shot.

The scene started off peacefully, but tensions began to escalate around 9:30 p.m. Madison police tweeted that protesters were becoming violent, throwing rocks and assaulting an officer.

For the second night in a row, police used tear gas to disperse crowds protesting on State Street.

Police said a group of 150 people broke into State Street businesses and damaged city property Saturday night, shortly after a peaceful protest over Floyd’s death ended. Thousands of people attended the initial protest, which remained calm for its entirety.

All together, 75 businesses in the State Street area experienced some type of damage during Saturday night’s riot. The Madison Police Department is still processing all reports related to the riot.

At least one Madison officer suffered minor injuries but did not seek medical treatment.  Two rifles were stolen out of an MPD squad car before it was set on fire, police said. An armored vehicle belonging to the department was also hit by a bullet.

Putting Out Fire Close Up

Officers used pepper spray and tear gas to break up the crowd as they tried to secure State Street. Interim Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl said officers stood back during the protests but intervened after storefronts started being vandalized.

Three people were arrested and officers will look at videos and photos to identify additional suspects. More information on the arrests is expected Monday morning.

Several other businesses, including East and West Towne malls, in Madison also experienced looting.

The Wisconsin National Guard assisted the Madison Police Department in the downtown area Sunday night.  Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway also implemented a curfew for the downtown area over the weekend.  The curfew began at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and lasts until 5 a.m. Monday.

Madison was one of many cities across the country to experience violence and looting this weekend. New York City, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia all experienced some type of rioting. Many are angered by video showing Floyd in police custody May 25. In the video, former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin is seen pressing his leg on the neck of Floyd for several minutes, even after Floyd goes unresponsive. Floyd is also heard on the video saying “I can’t breathe” and “mama.”

Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers with the Minneapolis Police Department have been fired as a result of Floyd’s death. They have not been charged.