‘This is a distraction:’ Community leaders frustrated as peaceful protests end with more damage

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MADISON, Wis. — Community leaders say they’re frustrated after their attempts for a peaceful night of protests saw small groups of people still leave behind shattered glass and burnt dumpsters.

Madison police say four people were arrested by early Wednesday morning. Six people were arrested the night before.

The arrests came after protests organized by state, city and community leaders stayed peaceful throughout the day and early evening. As the night went on, though, small groups of people began smashing glass in the downtown area — including the front doors of the Madison Police Department’s downtown precinct — and setting fires in garbage dumpsters.

Other protesters in the group tried to chase off and admonish those responsible, saying they were hurting the cause. Others helped business owners clean up broken glass and tried to put out fires.

Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson was one of the organizers of the night’s events and tried to keep the peace. He stayed after many protesters went home for the night at 2 a.m., talking to those who were still around.

“I told them this is a distraction,” Johnson told News 3 Now in an exclusive interview following the protests. “Tomorrow morning when this is on the news and when this is written in newspapers, it won’t be the list of things that you identified or issues you want to address. It’s going to be, ‘You came up and down State Street and you raised hell and you burned garbage cans and you broke windows.'”

Protesters gave a list of demands on Tuesday night, including passing a version of “Breonna’s Law” in honor of Breonna Taylor that would ban no-knock warrants, passing a “Hands Up Act” that would punish police officers that shoot unarmed people and giving control of the police to the community.

Johnson said he’s disappointed in the continued vandalism, but says he hopes both sides — the protesters and police — meet eachother halfway.

“I also understand the anger, also understand the challenges that we face, but I think our city leadership and our police department gotta meet with these young people, and gotta meet them halfway, and I think they (the young people) have to meet them halfway,” Johnson said.

Madison police have not said what the four people were arrested for.