MADISON — Lawmakers are making another attempt at stiffening penalties for damaging historically significant public property after a similar bill died a painful, radical left death last year.
The measure, crafted by state Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) and Rep. William Penterman (R-Columbus) would make damaging or destroying any structure, statue, plaque, painting or other monument of historical or commemorative significance on public property a Class I felony. Penalties include 3 1/2 years in prison and up to $10,000 in state fines, or both.
“There shouldn’t be license to destroy public property and to cause damage through civil unrest,” the authors wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors.
The legislation is in response to a June 2020 Black Lives Matter violent protest in Madison, when rioters tore down the Miss Forward and Civil War hero Hans Christian Heg statues that have long graced entrances to the State Capitol. The mob also smashed Capitol windows, set fire to Madison’s City-County Building, and badly beat a state senator as part of their rampage.
In another incident in August 2020, “protest leader” Jordan King, also known as Black Radical, was arrested on charges of damaging the Law Enforcement Memorial at the Capitol. He pounded it 23 times with a sledgehammer during another night of “peaceful protest” in Madison, according to court documents. King went on to damage the state Capitol, including the office windows of Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s first black lieutenant governor.
Nearly 15 months later, the case is still tied up in the Dane County criminal justice system.
“For me it boils down to respect for law and order for our communities,” Jacque said, adding that it’s not only taxpayer-funded property at stake, but lives. He pointed to the violent, mob riots that Kenosha, Madison and other Wisconsin cities endured during last year’s anti-police demonstrations.
Without the legislation, Jacque said rioters will be able to “reap destruction without consequences, and our society can’t withstand that.”
Democrats in the Legislature last year blasted a bipartisan attempt to rein in such destruction. They went as far as accusing Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), co-author of similar legislation, of online bullying of a radical liberal Senate candidate who unleashed an obscene Twitter tirade against him. Carpenter, who is gay, was badly hurt when he was attacked by Black Lives Matter rioters angry that he shot video of them damaging the Capitol Square statues.
“When this legislation was announced, state senate candidate Nada Elmikashfi and other progressive and radical activists like myself, took to social media to critique Carpenter. The proposed legislation is clearly an attempt to ‘get back at the people who harmed the senator by making the action they were participating in at the time he was assaulted a felony,” opined, Sami Schalk, the University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies who encouraged rioters in Madison and Kenosha.
Schalk was among many radicals preaching false equivalencies that attempted to justify the destruction of property.
“People say, ‘How can you get so emotional over things?’ Hans Christian Heg, here is a man who lost his life fighting to end slavery. I mean, good Lord, he was an abolitionist leader who entered the Civil War to defend the rights of people who did not have freedom and he’s being attacked and dishonered because of his skin color?” Jacque said.