Dane Co. Sheriff: Downtown Madison is currently not safe

MADISON (WKOW) -- In response to violent protesters who Tuesday night battered a state senator and toppled two iconic statues outside the State Capitol, Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said downtown Madison is currently not safe.

Mahoney defended his agency's response amid widespread criticism from citizens and state lawmakers who questioned why police allowed rioters to have free reign for more than two hours. Mahoney said by the time his deputies were assembled and prepared to support Madison Police in its efforts to stop the riot, the violence had largely ended

Mahoney said deputies responded to some of the agitators firebombing the City County Building; both Mahoney and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the fire temporarily disrupted the county's 911 response center.

"It posed a risk to our entire community, every resident of Dane County because it resulted in the movement of all the 911 dispatch center, stopping their acceptance of 911 calls while they sought safety until that fire could be put out," Mahoney said.

Mahoney said he still supports most of the protesters' message against police brutality and in support of racial inequities; Mahoney said he agrees racial bias still exists in law enforcement but added he felt the actions of Tuesday night's rioters will only serve as setback in their efforts.

"That is not the behavior that advances reforms in our country," Mahoney said. "You don't beat innocent individuals and rob them."

Mahoney referred to an incident where Madison Police said agitatorsbeat and robbed a Sun Prairie manwho accidentally turned into their path.

Mahoney said the sheriff's office will have personnel prepared to deploy Wednesday should Madison Police need support handling another night of violent protests.

Calling on Community Activists

Mahoney specifically called upon prominent activist groups Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage to publicly denounce Tuesday's violence. Mahoney said the groups' influence as well as the public funding they receive give them a responsibility to help keep the protests nonviolent.

"I call on them today to publicly disparage these acts of violence because it is their silence and failure to denounce and stand against these extreme acts of violence which endanger the very lives of the people they advocate for," Mahoney said.

April Kigeya, Communications Director for Urban Triage, said she was in the process of trying to arrange a meeting with Mahoney.

"While we did not take part in the events that occurred last night, I would urge people to show the same outrage and disapproval when Black and brown bodies are shot & killed, as when property such as statues are taken down," Kigeya said.

Legislative Response

When asked to assess the comments from a number of GOP state lawmakers stating local leaders have lost control of the situation in Madison, Mahoney responded their own inaction left no room for criticism of others' job performance. Mahoney specifically mentioned Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in his remarks.

"There is no reason, no reason that any elected official, whether in the legislative body, the executive branch, cannot sit down and say on an issue 'what do we agree on?'" Mahoney said. "And move the issues we agree on forward and continue the dialogue on issues we don't agree on."

The Wisconsin State Legislature had not passed a bill in 70 days as of Wednesday evening.

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