Wisconsin violence erupted over arrest of activist with felony conviction, history of controversial social media posts

The man whose Tuesday arrest in Wisconsin sparked a violent riot that culminated in the beating of a state lawmaker boasts a lengthy criminal record and appears to have a history of controversial social media posts.

Devonere Johnson, who also goes by Yeshua Musa, was captured on video entering a restaurant in Madison carrying a bat, using profanities and speaking through a bull horn after what appeared to be a dispute with a white man over racism, according to police reports cited by Madison.com.

He was arrested outside of the restaurant for disorderly conduct while armed, resisting arrest and attempting to flee and probation violation. The Madison Police Department posted videos of the conduct that led his arrest on YouTube.

Devonere Johnson

Devonere Johnson (Dane County Jail )

After officers wrestled Johnson to the ground, he allegedly attempted to fight them off and tried to run before he was put in a squad car, according to Madison.com.

In a video posted to social media of his arrest, Johnson can be heard saying he “can’t breathe” and asking why he’s being arrested.

Johnson was briefly treated at a hospital for cuts and scrapes sustained during his confrontation with police. Dane County court records show he was on probation at the time of his arrest.

Attorney information for Johnson's arrest was not available as of Friday morning. 

Protests calling for Johnson’s release soon spiraled into vandalism and violence during which vandals pulled down two statues – one of an anti-slavery Union defender and another of Lady Forward who represents progress. Several protesters also allegedly beat a Democratic state senator who was filming the protests while heading into the capitol building.


Local media reports show Johnson, 28, is no stranger to law enforcement.

While Johnson has no open cases against him, he has been convicted or pleaded guilty at least three times, including for felony theft, according to the court records and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson's felony theft charge from 2016 involved him and three others holding two men they had planned to buy cellphones from at gunpoint, stealing their phones and shooting at them, according to the Journal Sentinel. A judge dismissed the armed robbery charge and he was sentenced to five years of probation.

Johnson was also acquitted of felony first-degree assault charges in 2015 in a shooting that allegedly left a Minnesota bus passenger paralyzed, according to the Star Tribune.

The violence was sparked by a run-in between Johnson and a man identified only as “L.G.,” who had a previous relationship with Johnson’s girlfriend, the Tribune reported in 2015.

The pair began to fight and a witness told police L.G. at one point placed Johnson in a headlock, the report states. Johnson allegedly told L.G. to stop, and said, “Let me go or I'm going to shoot you,” according to a witness cited by the Tribune. The dispute, and Johnson’s alleged threats, were caught on video.

L.G. was reportedly shot in the neck and was paralyzed from his neck down. A jury later acquitted Johnson.

Several business owners in the area who didn't want to be named told Chanel 3000 Johnson had been harassing them for days.

Johnson appears to be very active on Facebook under the name Yeshua Musa. An account that bears the name and Johnson's photo has frequently posted images of himself and others protesting and sharing details about events.

Meanwhile, a Twitter page that appears to belong to Johnson, but has not been active for more than a year, has a profile picture that shows a man, who is black, pulling a rope that's apparently attached to a hanging member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The photo was first posted in December 2018 and still remained as the account's profile picture.


He also shared a screengrab of someone else's post in a February of 2019 tweet, which describes how "white people have Neanderthal in their DNA." The screenshot includes a "hate speech" warning posted by the social media page's moderator.

Under the photo, he wrote: "We are HOMO SAPIENS the original human!"