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Madison protest organizer charged with extortion

MADISON (WKOW) -- A Madison protest organizer has been charged in federal court with extortion following his arrest which sparked demonstrations downtown.

Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Devonere Johnson, 28, in federal court, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The U.S. Attorney's Office claimed Johnson used "force, violence, and fear" to get free food, drinks and money from businesses.

The complaint alleges that on Monday, Johnson threatened that the windows of a business would be destroyed unless a payment was made to his Venmo account. A second count against Johnson claims he insinuated another business would be shut down and destroyed unless he and others were given free food and drinks.

"Those who attempt to take advantage of recent events to extort local businesses under the guise of community activism will be vigorously prosecuted," said U.S. Attorney Blader. "All citizens have a right to feel safe within their communities."

Johnson faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each of the two counts, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The charges follow an investigation by the FBI and Madison Police Department.

"Extortion is not activism, it is a crime and it will not be tolerated," Blader said.

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