Anthony Davis, head of the Kenosha NAACP (Photo courtesy Kenosha NAACP)
For Anthony Davis, president of Kenosha’s chapter of the NAACP, the weekend brought more than just warm October weather. On Saturday morning as he ate breakfast, Davis heard a package arrive at the front door. He found a dead bird lying on top of campaign literature for Sen. Ron Johnson. One side showed Johnson and the other his opponent, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. If he wins, Barnes will become Wisconsin’s first Black senator.
Davis was disturbed by the display, created using the carcass of a hermit thrush. The species is migratory, and has been seen in the Kenosha area around this time. “I know birds, they sometimes fly around and hit stuff,” Davis told Wisconsin Examiner. He doesn’t think the bird died of natural causes and coincidentally dropped to the ground on top of the flyers, though. “ I’ve never seen a bird and a campaign flyer together,” he said. In the Pleasant Prairie neighborhood, Davis is the only African American resident. In his yard are not only Barnes campaign signs but also signs for Gov. Tony Evers and other Democratic candidates. “I’ve always had a good relationship with my neighbors,” said Davis.
A police officer who responded after Davis reported the incident expressed “disbelief” at the display. Davis says he was “infuriated.” Recalling stories his parents would share about facing racism in Arkansas, Davis said, “I believe a lot of this stuff has gotten to a point after our previous president more or less encouraged people to do different things and say different things. And that’s the feeling I got. That someone is trying to intimidate me.” Davis stressed that, “I’m allowed to put anything I want in my yard, as long as it’s not offensive.”
The tone of political messaging targeting Barnes has raised the concerns of several groups in recent weeks. In late September, a brief protest was organized outside the Republican Party office in Milwaukee to denounce what many felt were “racist” advertisements. During the last debate, Johnson was booed by audience members when he and Barnes were asked to name something they admire about the other. Barnes stated he admired that Johnson is a “family man.” Johnson stated that Barnes “had good upbringing” but went on to ask why Barnes “hates America.”
In the campaign material left at his door, Davis said Barnes was depicted as having a darker complexion than he has in reality. “I know Mandela, I’ve talked to him,” said Davis, “Mandela is not that dark. They made him look darker than he is on their literature.” Davis continued that, “I just hope whoever this individual was comes to some reality. I understand we’re in a political season, but that’s not the way it should be done. You got to show some respect somewhere along the way. Not just for other people, but for yourself.”
The incident is the latest in a string of similar activity occurring throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Earlier this month, “white lives matter” flyers were distributed in driveways in the Milwaukee County suburb of Greendale. For nearly a year, Waukesha County has also experienced upticks in organized white supremacist, neo-nazi, and neo-fascist activity both in the form of literature drops and protests. Those groups, operating in Waukesha, also branched out to the city of Jefferson and elsewhere. Over in West Allis, within Milwaukee County, a man was federally charged for leaving behind threatening notes for Black homeowners. The city of Kenosha also cited a man who distributed anti-Semitic flyers throughout the area.
Davis said that after the incident at his own home that he’s installing RING cameras and other security measures. It’s something he told Wisconsin Examiner that he’s never had to do while living in his home for many years.
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