Business owners describe what happened prior to man’s arrest outside Cooper’s Tavern

Businesses say the man had been harassing them for several days
Devonere Johnson
Devonere Johnson

MADISON, Wis. — Business owners along State Street said the 28-year-old man who was arrested outside Cooper’s Tavern on Tuesday afternoon had been harassing them and their customers for several days prior to his arrest.

Several businesses, which did not want to be identified due to fear of retaliation, said Devonere Johnson came into their restaurants with a bat and a megaphone demanding free food and drinks and threatened those who wouldn’t give it to him, allegedly saying he would burn down their buildings or beat them up.

One business owner expressed his frustration with the ongoing situation and said, “They have the right to protest, but they don’t have the right to damage.”

Another business owner said many of his interactions with protesters so far have been peaceful but with Johnson, it was different.

“He came in here and we had a discussion,” the business owner said. “We came to a resolution but then, at the end, it didn’t seem like it was enough and they demanded we give them free food and free beer. When these violent acts occur, it totally dilutes any sort of message.”

One business owner said he is now sleeping at his restaurant because, “We were afraid from the damage. I was afraid from the damage. Because insurance isn’t going to take care of us anymore.”

The business owners said they are in support of the protests and are also demanding change from legislators and city officials, but are hoping it can be resolved peacefully

“We heard you,” one business owner said. “Government heard you. They want to make a decision out of everything that’s happening, but a decision cannot be made overnight. You guys wanna protest? I’m a protester. I am protesting. Me and my family. Everyone. We are all protesting. But there is a way to protest.”