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Witnesses dispute police report in case of driver being beaten after driving into protesters

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Video screenshot capture. Video by Emily Hamer, Wisconsin State Journal.

Witnesses say a man seems to have knowingly driven into a group of protesters, then gotten out of his car ready to fight when a protester used his bicycle to stop the car, before being beaten and having his car damaged.

A Madison police incident report says the 28-year-old man from Sun Prairie “inadvertently” turned into the path of protesters as they crossed John Nolen Drive onto Blount Street. The report says a protester threw his bicycle at the car and that the driver got out of the car to ask why the protester had done that, and was then beaten by five or six protesters and had his wallet stolen.

Witnesses dispute that sequence of events.

Protester Jeff Tischauser said another protester stopped the car near a traffic barrier and asked the driver, “Are you with us?” Tischauser said the driver responded, “F*** no” and attempted to drive past the traffic barricade that had been placed in the middle of the traffic lanes on John Nolen Drive.

Tischauser said it didn’t seem “inadvertent.”

“It seemed like a calculated decision to get to his destination a little bit sooner,” Tischauser said in a Facebook message to Madison365.

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Emily Hamer tweeted that in driving past the barricade, the driver “rammed” someone’s bike, but Tischauser and one other witness said the protester threw his bike at or under the car in order to stop the car from striking protesters.

“The driver was asked to wait for us to cross, and the driver refused and chose to drive through the line right as marchers were getting ready to march on Blount toward Eash Wash(ington Avenue). The driver presented a viable threat to our March,” Tischauser said.

Another witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said the car accelerated and was “speeding toward protesters” when the bicycle was thrown.

He said protesters had blocked traffic on John Nolen for a total of about 20 – 30 minutes.

Tischauser said after the bike was thrown, the driver got out “with fists raised” and began attacking the protester who’d thrown the bike.

“I saw the driver get out of his car with fists raised. That’s when I ran over there. I pushed the driver off the protester being assaulted,” Tischauser said. “As soon as I did this, almost immediately, 10 to 20 people swarmed him. Punches, kicks, stomps. The driver gets up, tries to fight back for a sec, then tries to get away, the group tracks him, throws him down again.”

In cell phone video posted by Hamer, protesters can be heard saying “Enough,” and creating a perimeter to protect the driver, who was prone in a fetal position.

Madison police say he was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Tischauser said he was able to stand and evaluate the damage to his car that had been caused by other protesters.

Tischauser also said the confrontation could have been avoided.

“The driver could have easily reversed and found a different way,” he said. “There was no traffic behind him. He made that decision to drive through the line. He also made that decision to get out fighting.”

It was one of at least four incidents in which cars struck or intended to strike protesters, who were protesting the arrest earlier in the day of activist Yeshua Musa.