Gov. Evers urges ‘peacefully and safely’ protesting, says he’ll up National Guard presence

Evers Official Portrait 1280

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers is urging protesters to demonstrate peacefully after two nights of protests in Madison and Kenosha sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake turned violent, including setting fire and damaging property.

“The ability to exercise First Amendment rights is a critically important part of our democracy and the pursuit of justice,” Evers said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “But there remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger.”

Evers said his office is assessing the damage to state property and he will be increasing the presence of the Wisconsin National Guard to “ensure individuals can exercise their right safely, protect state buildings and critical infrastructure, and support first responders and fire fighters.”

Evers said the protests Monday night put people and businesses in danger, and said those actions distract from the reason the protests began.

“We cannot forget the reason why these protests began, and what we have seen play out over the last two nights and many nights this year is the pain, anguish, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and country,” Evers said. “But as I said yesterday, and as I’ll reiterate today, everyone should be able to exercise their fundamental right—whether a protester or member of the press—peacefully and safely. We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue. We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.”

The police shooting of 29-year-old Blake was captured on video, and it ignited new protests over racial injustice. It comes three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police set off demonstrations around the United States. Police did not say why they opened fire.