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A busy, tense week in Wisconsin’s troubled capital city

As prosecution of Madison rioters begins, Bishop Donald J. Hying will lead a Eucharistic Procession for unity.

The Blessed Sacrament is processed past Black Lives Matter murals on boarded-up storefronts in downtown Madison on June 15. (Photo by Joseph M. Hanneman)

MADISON, Wisconsin — Just as the legal repercussions of this summer’s Black Lives Matter riots in Wisconsin’s capital city begin to be felt, the Bishop of the Diocese of Madison plans to lead potentially thousands of Catholics in a Eucharistic Procession and Rosary rally for peace and unity.

Samantha R. Hamer (left) and Kerida E. O’Reilly were bound over for trial on charges of substantial battery in the beating of state senator Timothy Carpenter.

On Thursday August 6, two Madison women were bound over for trial on charges they beat unconscious a state senator from Milwaukee who was trying to photograph a riot near the state Capitol building. Samantha R. Hamer, 26, a school social worker; and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, a physical therapist; were charged in Dane County Circuit Court with being parties to the crime of felony substantial battery with intent to do bodily harm, in the June 24 beating of Sen. Timothy Carpenter of Milwaukee.

After an 80-minute preliminary hearing, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Stephen E. Ehlke ruled there is probable cause to believe the women committed the felony offenses alleged by the state. He bound them over for arraignment and trial. Madison Police Department detective Linda Trevarthen testified that anonymous tipsters identified Hamer and O’Reilly as the women seen charging at the senator in a video recorded on Carpenter’s phone. The senator was then punched, fell to the ground and was kicked in the head, ribs, and legs, police said. He suffered a fractured nose that required surgery.

The June 23-24 riots were sparked by the arrest of a Black Lives Matter activist, who was accused of accosting a mother of four praying the Rosary, before going into a nearby tavern and terrorizing patrons with a bullhorn and baseball bat. During the wild night of violence that followed, crowds toppled two century-old statues on the Capitol grounds, tossed a firebomb near the 911 dispatch center in the City-County Building, and vandalized the Capitol building while attempting to force their way into the historic domed edifice.

Hamer and O’Reilly are the first two suspects bound over for trial of five charged so far with state and federal crimes related to the Madison riots. A number of other suspects have been charged with burglary and looting during riots in late May and June.

Meanwhile, Bishop Donald J. Hying plans to lead a Eucharistic Procession Aug. 15 up riot-damaged State Street to the Capitol for the “Unite Wisconsin” patriotic Rosary rally. Organizers hope to draw 3,000 participants in an effort to unite Catholics against mob violence and intrusive government regulations brought on by COVID-19. The event follows a similar Eucharistic Procession on June 15 that drew 300 participants to the Wisconsin Capitol. Hying said such public faith events are not about politics, but proclaiming the truths of Christ.

“We need certainly to be public in our expression of the faith and to be strong,” Hying said in an interview. “We can never be politicized or co-opted in terms of politics. But if we remain true to the teachings of Christ and to the value of what’s been revealed to us and the value of the human person, that may have political implications but it’s being true and faithful to the Gospel. Part of the question when we do things publicly like that is to make sure our own intentions are pure, that we’re out here to proclaim Christ and to love even those that may be opposed to us and to love our enemies.”

The procession and rally will take place at the heart of a city in turmoil. May and June riots initially sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis left much of Madison’s State Street shopping district boarded up and covered with Black Lives Matter murals and graffiti.

Madison’s beleaguered police force has contended with riots and a doubling of shots-fired incidents reported around the city. On August 4, more than 60 shots rang out at a public park during a memorial service for a young man killed in a targeted shooting in late July. Three people were injured. Just days before, the city had five shooting incidents in a 10-hour period. City leaders, including Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, have expressed support for the BLM protests, while they discuss proposals to cut police funding and restrict what types of non-lethal force can be used on rioters.

The Catch-22 has angered the rank-and-file. Ninety-five percent of Madison Professional Police Officers Association members approved a vote of “no confidence” against Rhodes-Conway, who faces a possible recall election if her critics can garner enough signatures within a 60-day time frame.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) asks the public to help identify these five persons of interest in the firebombing of the City-County Building. Contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014 or online at

Meanwhile, riot-related investigations continue. Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued rewards of up to $10,000 in hopes of identifying five persons of interest in the firebombing of the City-County Building, which houses the Madison Police Department and the county’s juvenile jail. The ATF released surveillance photos and asked for the public’s help in identifying the five individuals. So far, no arrests have been made. Ashlee J.L. Sherrill, public information officer for the ATF’s St. Paul Field Division, said “we’ve received tips on all the persons of interest and are currently working to validate the tip information.”

A federal grand jury indicted Devonere A. Johnson, 28, for two alleged violations of federal extortion laws. Johnson was arrested June 23 after he harassed patrons at The Coopers Tavern on the Capitol Square. That occurred just minutes after Johnson allegedly accosted a 40-year-old mother of four who was praying the Rosary on the sidewalk with her children. She told Catholic World Report that Johnson came at her and the children while swinging a baseball bat like a pendulum. She said she did not report him to police for fear of retribution.

According to the federal criminal complaint, Johnson and an associate entered a downtown Madison bar on June 22, blasting music on a boom box. Johnson demanded money from the owner or the business’ windows would be smashed, the complaint said. He told the owner to send him cash using the Venmo smartphone app. The owner took Johnson’s Venmo account details, but did not send him money. Johnson came back to the establishment with two other men on June 23, this time armed with a bat and carrying a megaphone. Video shot by an employee shows Johnson speaking through the megaphone, saying, “I am disturbing the s**t out of this restaurant” and “I got a f*****g bat.”

Johnson and another man entered a second restaurant on June 22, the complaint said, playing loud, explicit music on the boom box. One of the owners asked him to leave, but he refused. On June 23, Johnson and two other men returned, this time demanding free food and beer, the complaint said. “You don’t want 600 people to come here and destroy your business and burn it down,” Johnson said, according to the complaint. “The cops are on our side. You notice that when you call them, nothing happens to us.”

Johnson faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the two federal extortion charges. He also faces a slew of state felony and misdemeanor charges related to his alleged behavior on June 22 and 23. He was charged in Dane County Circuit Court with two counts of threatening to injure or accuse someone of a crime, two counts of disorderly conduct, escape from a criminal arrest, resisting or obstructing police and criminal damage to property. Johnson remains in the Dane County Jail.

Gregg A. James Jr., 23; and William T. Shanley, 25; have also been charged in Dane County Circuit Court with making threats to injure or accuse of a crime for allegedly working with Johnson to demand money, food and beer in exchange for not destroying the two downtown restaurants.

The Rosary-praying mother who was targeted by Johnson said she plans to take part in the Eucharistic Procession on Aug. 15. “He may be a bully, and there may even be more bullies who hate faith and use people for their own ends, but I refuse to stop praying in public spaces,” she said. “I think that if we can all stand up to evil, praying fervently, we may be able to stave off the forces of darkness that threaten to swallow our beautiful country. I pray we can. We must push forward. Our Lady will protect us.”

(Editor’s note: This article was updated on August 7, 2020.)

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About Joseph M. Hanneman 101 Articles
Joseph M. Hanneman writes from Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. Dear Sir/Madam:
    I understand the reason for Bishop Hying wanting to express our Catholic faith and social teachings in response to the violence taking place in Madison, WI, and a Eucharistic Procession is a wonderful way to demonstrate this. However, to conflate the demonstrations with “intrusive government regulations brought on by Covid 19” and then say that “such public events are not about politics” is more than a bit disingenuous. What does he really think he is doing, when he says “We can never be politicized or co-opted in terms of politics.” With 1,000 people dying in the USA every day, should we really be demonstrating against government efforts to contain the virus? Please ask yourself – WWJD?

    • He is saying that good, law-abiding and normal people have rights too. The mayor of this dump should be ashamed of themselves. If you leave regular people unprotected at the hands of a mob there is NO question they will eventually arm themselves and do what they must. This Bishop is hoping for good will from the crazy mob factor.I wish him luck. He would have been better Off TELLING the mayor/governor that he was opening his church. Period. And then dare them to arrest him and his parishioners. The lives of millions have been destroyed in an effort to contain a barely fatal disease. Its time to put an end to the farce and enforce the laws for those whose only function setting is violence. Vote a straight Republican line unless you want this rioting on your own street.

      • Seems that American is blessed with many terrible mayors, but what does that does that say about the people who elected them to office.

  2. So sad. I spent a week in Madison back in the 90s, and it was a beautiful, pleasant little town. These young rioters, the white 20 somethings in the wanted photos,the girls that attacked the senator, I really can’t understand their motivation at all. They’ve had a soft eeasy life, never missed a meal, so what are they so angry about? Apparently they have been very well manipulated, brainwashed, and they are somehow doing something heroic. We need to pray for these people because they are truely lost, caught in the snares of Satan.

  3. 1) da mayor expresses support for blm,
    1) discusses reducing police funding
    2 – riots and property destruction become part of daily life in Madison

    It seems that they have forgotten basic arithmetic in Madison, if ever it was taught at all.

  4. Senator Carpenter is a Democratic as are the two ladies who assaulted him. Is it not time for the Senator to become a Republican?

  5. As an ex Episcopal Priest I can tell you the church has 100% been politicized. One of the reasons I am an EX priest. Jesus was very clear in his direction that you follow the laws and orders of your government. “Render unto Caesar….”
    I assume you will be following all lawful orders of our government when you hold this procession. Social distancing and face masks right? ON EVERYONE. RIGHT? Because it is what JESUS TOLD YOU TO DO.

    • Perhaps you didn’t notice but this article is not primarily about masks and Covid. I’m sure most will willingly wear masks during the processions to protect themselves and others. However, if they don’t it’s not really up to angry vigilantes to enforce it or to demonize them as has happened many times in recent days. It’s also good to remember that there are legitimate reasons that people may forgo wearing masks as per mandate instructions. Those with asthma or other breathing conditions for example are not required. Those walking outside who are able to social distance are generally not required. Obviously, those eating or drinking outdoors who are practicing social distance from those not in their household are also not required.

    • Really??? And I remember that old line,” if the mayor told you to jump off a bridge, would you”?? Thats where we are now. The mayors and governors are allowing marijuana shops and casinos and liquor store to open, but closing or severely restricting churches. The church is a major target, it could not be more obvious. They can only control you with your cooperation. Jesus never said to be a doormat, or ignore the mandates of your faith to appease a person with dictatorial power. Always go down fighting for what you believe. Remember even the Mafia used to respect the church. I guess the democrats are lower than that.

  6. I live in Madison just off State Street where all this happened. In fact I just an hour ago met a man over at Holy Redeemer Church (a block from me) who told me he was a representative of Men of Christ involved in organizing this march (which I had not yet heard of). After State Sen Tim Carpenter was knocked down by the two women and punched and kicked by still other people, he was able to finally tell the attackers who he was and demand his phone back (which they did give back, maybe because he is a Democrat), there was a photo of him lying on the ground with his head in the greenery but i am not sure it is clear whether he passed out or if that was someone’s interpretation of him lying there concussed and immobile. It was appalling regardless, everything that they did that evening was appalling, idiotic and vicious. I went over there the next day and found relatives and friends of extortionist Devonere “Yeshua Musa” Johnson staked out at the base of the former “Forward” statue and had a conversation with them opposing the recent behavior. One of them later, when I ran into him again on the South Side, threatened me with battery. I think he was subsequently arrested for something else and I think he is probably still in jail. Also, one 26 year old person of interest HAS been arrested on July 1st in the firebombing of the City County Building. I don’t think he was named, perhaps because not yet charged and they are keen to keep seeking the other culprits.

    Anyway, obviously if there can be ongoing BLM mass gatherings then there can be a Eucharistic procession.

    • Just wondering wasn’t one of the points of Vactican II about spredding the faith. So it would nice if Bishop Hying’s plan was adopted by other Bishops. Could you imagine a nationwide day of Eucharistic Processions and Praying the Rosary by all of America’s Bishops.

  7. I know a social worker. Very nice, very empathetic. She works works with cancer patients, but wants to go back to the school system. Tough gig to get. And I know a student who just got in to PT school. It has been a tense six months dealing with the admissions bureaucracy even after they accepted his application (there is always fine print). Yes, I know. Covid. But still.
    Folks: these are NOT easy careers to get. I only know about Physical Therapy school admissions up close, but in listening to a friend, the licensing tests for social work are a tough slog. I can almost guarantee these two women still have college debt that needs to be paid.
    And they punched a guy? A guy with a cell phone camera?? What were they thinking? Assuming they were thinking. I assume they thought the masks gave them enough invisibility to make the first punch.
    (Who among has has not wanted to punch McCarrick?)
    The lockdowns and masks are driving people . . . insane? stupid? evil? They must end.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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