Empower Wisconsin | Aug. 18, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The night Black Lives Matter rioters ripped up the Capitol Square, Gov. Tony Evers’ team should have known things could turn really ugly really fast.
But texts and other communications from the governor and his staff on that long night of violence show the feckless executive had no plan to stop the mob.
The communications from June 23-24 were obtained by the Republican Party of Wisconsin through an open records request and used for an ad launched last week accusing Evers for being “asleep at the switch.” Empower Wisconsin received copies of the documents.
While Team Evers told Capitol Police to remain in the statehouse, their failure to act allowed protesters to tear down two iconic statues, smash Capitol windows and firebomb a government building. Oh, and beat the hell out of a Milwaukee liberal senator.
At 10:40 p.m., Evers’ Chief of Staff Maggie Gau sent the governor an urgent text.
“Please call,” she wrote.
By this time, the peaceful protest calling out police brutality had already devolved into a demonstration of destruction.
At 12:18 a.m., an exchange occurs with Mary Bottari, chief of staff for Madison’s leftist mayor and Gau.
Bottari: “Are they actually in the building?”
Gau: “They were in the lobby but didn’t get past the sliding doors that were locked. They’ve moved on now. But we think they’re still around outer loop. We are concerned that additional damage will be done to state buildings as they continue to work around the square area. Are there plans to intervene?”
In other words, will Madison police confront the mob.
As Empower Wisconsin reported, even after Madison cops on the scene alerted their Command post that rioters planned to firebomb the City-County Building, officers were told to stand down and stay out of the area.
So what was Madison’s mayor doing?
“There is a small team of African-American de-escalation specialists who were present earlier who left who are (not) there now,” Bottari answered Gau in a text.
Gau told Bottari that she was just looking for clarification from the mayor’s office “about if/when intervention will happen.”
“They are obviously on city property now and not state property,” Gau wrote in a text.
The rioters continued to move about the square, eventually targeting the City-County Building. They set the building on fire, putting scores of lives in danger, including two-dozen young offenders held in the juvenile detention center. Heavy smoke forced the 911 dispatch center to evacuate, cutting off emergency communications in some places.
Meanwhile, Evers and Gau sent each other screenshots of media tweets from the scene.
At 12:53 a.m., Gau sent a shot of a tweet from Wisconsin State Journal’s Emily Hamer who reported, “There’s been no visible police presence around the crowd so far tonight.” At 2:59 a.m., Evers sent a screenshot of Isthmus reporter Dylan Brogan’s tweet declaring, “After a tense 90 minutes, police in riot gear left the scene and protesters went home. No tear gas.”
’Sorry to bug you’
It seems Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Molly Beck was having a hard time getting a hold of Evers’ communications staff. At 10:50 p.m., Beck sent a text to Melissa Baldauff and Britt Cudaback.
“Hey, sorry to bug you both so late. Looks like protesters have removed the Forward statue from the State Street side of the Capitol. Are Capitol PD planning to reinstall the statue or protect it in some way? Thanks,” Beck wrote.
Her text messages grew increasingly pointed.
“The Col. Heg statue was thrown in a Lake. Why hasn’t Capitol Police intervened? Thanks,” she wrote to Evers’ spokespersons.
“Are Capitol Police planning to intervene in the event tonight? The Forward statue is being dragged away.”
No answer, at least according to the texts contained in the records sent to RPW.
By the way, Capitol Police were not planning to intervene because, as Empower Wisconsin first reported, the governor ordered them to stay inside the building during the destructive riot.
“What Gov. Evers said to me is, he kept the Capitol Police inside the building, as the protesters were breaking out the windows, to protect the building,” Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) told Empower Wisconsin. Felzkowski said she spoke to the governor on Thursday, June 25, the day after the riot came to an end.
“He said, “Mary, we’d still be looking for the rioters today (on that Thursday) in the Capitol. They’d be hiding all over,’” Felzkowski said. “He was very proud of what he did and felt it was justified.”
Evers could have called up the Wisconsin State Patrol to assist. Felzkowski said the governor told her “the response time would be too long.”
A state official familiar with the operations of the State Patrol says the governor’s excuse doesn’t hold up. The source, who asked not to be identified, said dozens of Patrol officers from the Southwest Region in Deforest could have been on scene in less than an hour. They respond to such events in teams of 13, he said.
They could have been there to assist had the governor wanted them there, and probably could have prevented at least some of the damage done to state property, the source said.
Empower Wisconsin on July 10 filed an open records request with the governor’s office seeking all communications between Evers and his staff and representatives from the Wisconsin State Patrol and Capitol Police. The office has yet to fill the request.
Riots were planned on Facebook
It’s not like the protests that night — and the potential for them to turn destructive — came as a surprise to anyone in state and local government. Radical leftist groups like Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage filled up Facebook pages with plans to take to the streets after police earlier in the day took Devonere Johnson into custody. The 28-year-old Johnson was arrested after walking into a Capitol Square restaurant with a baseball bat and a bullhorn. He faces extortion and other felony charges in federal court.
Even as the chatter from some militant social justice warriors turned increasingly violent, there was no apparent plan for a coordinated response from state and local officials the night Colonel Heg’s statue was decapitated and dragged to the bottom of Lake Monona.
Read the texts here.