The morning after protests against racial injustice turned violent — with a state senator being attacked, a molotov cocktail being thrown into a government building and two statues outside the Capitol building torn down — cleanup crews were out and Republican legislators branded the protesters as violent “terrorists.”
One of the statues torn down was of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, an immigrant from Norway who became an abolitionist and died fighting for the Union in the Civil War. The statue of Heg was torn down and dragged into Lake Monona.
The other torn down statue represents Wisconsin’s “Forward” motto. The artist, Jean Pond Miner, described her as an allegory of devotion and progress. It was installed 125 years ago and later replaced with a bronze replica.
On Wednesday, the pedestals of both statues had been painted with graffiti, much of it targeting government officials or police officers. Someone had also placed a bouquet of flowers on the Forward statue’s pedestal.
In addition to the statues, Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) was assaulted after taking a video of protesters.
“I took this pic- it got me assaulted & beat up. Punched/kicked in the head, neck, ribs. Maybe concussion, socked in left eye is little blurry, sore neck & ribs. 8-10 people attacked me. Innocent people are going to get killed. Capitol locked- stuck in office.Stop violence now Plz!” Carpenter wrote on Twitter.
Republican Assembly leaders Robin Vos, Jim Steineke and Tyler August held a news conference on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday, facing State Street and what was left of the “Forward” statue.
Assembly Speaker Vos (R-Rochester), invoked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. as he called for protests to practice nonviolence, saying that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s did not use violence as a method.
In a statement on Twitter, Vos had called the protesters “thugs” and at the news conference, Steineke referred to them as “terrorists.”
While Vos’ statement ignores the fact that King was often criticized for inciting violence — and his words echo those of the Alabama clergy whose letter prompted King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” — he also said he believes there is common ground to be found and potential for action on the issue of racial injustice and police violence.
Vos added in an interview after the news conference that there would not likely be any type of session any time soon, and that any session would need to be “well thought out” and “comprehensive.”