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Protesters condemn Johnson’s arrest, call for release from Dane County jail

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MADISON (WKOW) - Protesters are condemning the arrest of an activist, whose jailing Tuesday was followed by protester removal of statues in Madison, breaking of windows at the state Capitol and an assault on a state senator.

Video shows several Madison Police officers holding 28-year old activist Devonere Johnson on the ground, after Johnson entered a Capitol Square restaurant with a bullhorn and baseball bat and loudly decried racism.

"They had him down, pinned like they had George Floyd," fellow protester and eyewitness Gregg James says.

"It took five officers to violently apprehend Devonere," radio host and activist Alan Robinson says. "A white guy would have probably gotten a ticket."

Johnson was booked into the jail on tentative charges of disorderly conduct, resisting police, escape and a probation violation. Records show Johnson is on probation for a 2017 theft conviction and state officials are holding Johnson in jail in connection with that probation. Dane County's district attorney Wednesday also did not give Johnson an opportunity for a bail hearing, nor did he release the probable cause statement, with its justification for Johnson's arrest and incarceration.

Robinson says responding police had options other than to swarm and take down Johnson. "They didn't deescalate the situation," Robinson says. "Clearly the eight hours on deescalation training that the MPD has wasn't enough to suffice in that situation."

Following Johnson's Tuesday arrest, Robinson used his Facebook page to urge people to come to the Dane County jail and protest. Robinson says he bears no responsibility for the later, taking down of two statutes, and the attack against Sen. Tim Carpenter as Carpenter videotaped protesters.

"I don't tell people how to protest," Robinson says.

Robinson says he hopes those responsible for the attack on Carpenter are identified and regrets what happened. "It breaks my heart," he says. "Senator Carpenter is a good man, did not deserve to be assaulted." Carpenter is recovering from the punches and kicks of the assault.

A Madison Police incident report references Johnson received cuts and bruises in connection with his arrest. Robinson maintains the booking photo of Johnson posted online by the Dane County Sheriff's Office is from a past, jail booking and does not reflect Johnson's current condition.

James says outrage over Johnson's treatment by police and the criminal justice system continues.

"If he don't get out (of jail)'s going to be worse," James says of potential, future activism.

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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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