June 24 (UPI) -- Protesters angry at the arrest of an activist in Wisconsin toppled statues outside the State Capitol in Madison and assaulted a lawmaker when a rally late Tuesday evolved into violence, officials said.
Authorities said demonstrators targeted statues of Union Army Col. Hans Christian Heg, who died during the Civil War, and a female symbol of progress. The latter is titled "Forward," a bronze replica statue of a woman that was designed as an icon for Wisconsin devotion and progress.
Officials said the statue of Heg, a Norwegian immigrant and journalist who died at the Battle of Chickamauga, was thrown into Lake Monona.
The vandalism continued a pattern of similar incidents nationwide targeting historic symbols with ties to social inequality. Statues of Confederate soldiers, Christopher Columbus and others have been toppled by protesters or voluntarily removed by government officials.
Earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump assailed protesters targeting statues and monuments of America's past. He promised an executive order that will facilitate the arrest and prosecution of vandals if they target federal property.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos condemned the vandalism.
"This is absolutely despicable," he tweeted. "I am saddened at the cowardice of Madison officials to deal with these thugs."
Vos called on Gov. Tony Evers to "finally do something" about violent demonstrators "committing crimes on state property."
The unrest began earlier Tuesday when a group of protesters gathered at the Dane County Jail to demand the release of African-American activist Devonere Johnson. The rally was a response to video that showed Johnson struggling with multiple police officers during his arrest outside a Madison restaurant.
Footage provided by Madison Police had showed Johnson harassing a customer at the restaurant.
Wisconsin Sen. Tim Carpenter was also punched during the rally while trying to take a picture, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.