MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday defended his decision 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.
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. Cellphone 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 their federal public defenders declined to comment Thursday.
Evers said the protests are a watershed opportunity to fix systemic racism. He 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.”
Also on Thursday, Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy issued a statement saying that “we condemn the systemic racism that has existed forever in this country” and that “we stand with those raising their voices, protesting the injustices and demanding change.”
Murphy said the Packers “will be working with our players” to make a $250,000 donation to Wisconsin causes that support social justice and racial equality. Murphy said that he and his wife, Laurie, also would be making a $250,000 donation to Wisconsin social justice groups.
The Packers had tweeted out a video earlier in the day featuring several players and coach Matt LaFleur that said “enough is enough” and that “it’s time for change.”
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