Gov. Evers praises peaceful protests, defends deploying National Guard

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 4:46 PM CDT
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Gov. Tony Evers defended his decision Thursday to deploy the Wisconsin National Guard to help police in Madison and Milwaukee control protests over George Floyd’s death.

Evers, a Democrat, told reporters during a conference call that he deployed the Guard to protect property in Madison, including the state Capitol building, and utilities in Milwaukee. If the troops actively intervened they did so at the direction of local authorities, he said.

Gov. Evers urged us all to be spurred to action in the wake of Floyd's death.

"Just like we cannot look away from police brutality and the killing of black men and women, we cannot look away from the reality that inaction, indifference and institutional racism has harmed generations of black and brown Wisconsinites. This cannot be who we are any longer."

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on Memorial Day after police in Minneapolis arrested him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store. Cell phone video of the incident shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and laying in the street on his stomach.

Protests over Floyd’s death have rocked the nation, with some demonstrations marked by vandalism, burglaries and violence.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged two Wisconsin men with illegally possessing handguns during the Madison protests. U.S. Attorney Scott Blader said Kyle C. Olson, 28, of Edgerton, and Anthony R. Krohn, 36, of Madison, each are charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The cases are not related.

Police called to civil unrest in downtown Madison on Sunday night saw Olson remove a handgun from the trunk of his car and place the gun in his back waistband, according to an affidavit. Early Monday, police were called about a person with a gunshot wound. Officers found Krohn bleeding from a gunshot wound to his leg. He told an officer he had shot himself, according to an affidavit.

Olson and Krohn are in the Dane County Jail. Their initial court appearances have not been scheduled, and it’s unclear if they have attorneys who could speak on their behalf.

Evers said he's encouraged by seeing how deeply Floyd's death has resonated in the Badger State. Evers said the protests are a watershed opportunity to fix systemic racism.

"Clearly the people of Wisconsin are interested in expressing their First Amendment rights, especially around something as important as racism. And so, frankly as governor, I've been pleased with the outpouring of interest in doing that."

He also encouraged people to demonstrate lawfully.

“First Amendment rights are not to be trampled in this state or any other state,” Evers said. “Those who decide to do damage are damaging the First Amendment, and they’re damaging the opportunity for thousands of people across Wisconsin to exercise that First Amendment right.”

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. WBAY contributed to this report.

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