Businesses, police gear up for downtown crowds with expected protest, UW-Madison graduation

MADISON, Wis. — With a weekend that could draw thousands of people to downtown Madison approaching quickly, John Hayes has learned to adapt.

“It’s kind of made us more aware of what can happen because it did happen,” explained Hayes.

Hayes, the president of Goodman’s Jewelers, saw his small business on State Street broken into and looted during a 2020 protest. It led to months of repairs and memories that won’t fade.

However, nothing hurt more than what Hayes calls a false perception that State Street was now dangerous.

“It affected how much business we did and how much business we were able to do because people were afraid to come downtown,” he said.

Hayes doesn’t expect a planned abortion rights rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol Saturday afternoon to be anything but peaceful. Police expect it will draw more than a thousand people to the Capitol steps.

“I don’t think this particular event is going to have any negative effect other than some people that don’t come downtown,” Hayes said.

RELATED: Madison police preparing for possible large protest at Capitol this weekend

In a statement Friday morning, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said they are working with several agencies to make sure it remains peaceful. This includes beefing up MPD patrol, bringing in mounted officers and putting in place a command center.

Capitol Police will handle security on its grounds.

“Capitol Police are aware of demonstrations that are planned on and around Capitol grounds this weekend,” the agency said in a statement. “We are working closely and cooperatively with local partners and agencies from the area to ensure individuals who attend these events can safely exercise their constitutional rights.”

Both police and Hayes believe people do have the right to speak their minds, no matter where they stand on the issue.

“Everyone has a right to speak their own mind. Let them speak and share their own thoughts. Let the other person say their thing,” Hayes said.

The event is on the same day that thousands of University of Wisconsin-Madison students will celebrate graduation at Camp Randall.