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Arrest of organizer in downtown Madison sparks protests

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Johnson arrest
Devonere Johnson
Vic wahl and protesters
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Devonere Johnson meeting Acting Chief Vic Wahl earlier this month.

MADISON (WKOW) -- There's increasing frustration over the arrest of a protest organizer in downtown Madison Tuesday. The arrest was captured on cell phones and shared widely on social media. Madison police also released video of the incident.

Madison police arrested the man on the Capitol square Tuesday afternoon after he walked into a restaurant with a baseball bat and bullhorn.

Police took Devonere Johnson, 28, into custody outside The Coopers Tavern, 20 West Main St., around 12:30 p.m. Johnson, who goes by the name Yeshua Musa, helped set up a protest June 13 that blocked traffic on East Washington Avenue.

Acting Chief Vic Wahl met Johnson and gave the organizer a business card. "I am absolutely, fully, on board with meeting with you, meeting with him, to talk about ways we can improve, build trust and move forward," Wahl said at the time.

Police tentatively charged Johnson with disorderly conduct while armed, resisting arrest and attempted escape.

The Madison Police Department shared video of Johnson inside The Coopers Tavern and his arrest. The footage inside the Tavern shows Johnson emphasizing that he is disturbing the restaurant and holding a bat. Johnson followed a man into the restaurant that he called a racist.

Once inside, Johnson spoke through the megaphone about slavery, police and the civil war.

After he left the restaurant, officers arrived and arrested him. Police say Johnson struggled before escaping custody. Officers tackled him while he again tried to escape.

Police took Johnson to a hospital for medical clearance before being taken to the Dane County Jail. Johnson "suffered abrasions to his arms and a leg," authorities said. Police also said two officers suffered minor injuries while making the arrest.

Witnesses who shared their own video of the arrest questioned whether police should arrest Johnson, who they say was exercising free speech.

Madison police say they arrested him for his actions inside the tavern.

The incident sparked protests late Tuesday afternoon. 27 News has a crew on the scene and will have more on 27 News at 10.

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JT Cestkowski

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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Dani Maxwell

Dani Maxwell is the Assistant News Director for 27 WKOW.

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