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Protecting history

Empower Wisconsin | June 30, 2020  

MADISON — Memo to rioters: Destroy another historic statue and face 3 1/2 years in state prison. 

State Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) have co-authored a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting historic property and monuments from the kinds of vandalism and destruction that ripped through Capitol Square last week. 

Carpenter, an openly gay senator and champion of the Black Lives Matter movement, was beaten up by a mob of radical demonstrators as he videotaped their crimes. 

“I took this pic (and) it got me assaulted and beat up,” Carpenter wrote on Facebook Wednesday morning after, he said, eight to 10 people punched and kicked him in the head, neck and ribs. 

The proposal uses language mirroring current statutes for damage and graffiti to churches and cemeteries, Hutton said.

Under current state law, it’s a Class I felony to damage or vandalize vehicles, highways, common carrier property, grand juror property, and state-owned historical property. The bi-partisan bill adds “any structure, plaque, statue, painting or other monument of commemorative or historical significance that is on public property or is maintained by the state or any county or municipality.” 

Those convicted of a Class I felony in Wisconsin face up to $10,000 in fines and imprisonment of up to 3 1/2 years. 

“Over the past several weeks we have witnessed the repeated destruction of historic property and monuments across the country. These monuments have served for decades, and in some cases centuries, as reminders of our shared history as a country,” Hutton said in a press release. 

“More recently in Madison we witnessed the destruction of two monuments on the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds. These two statues served as important monuments to significant events in Wisconsin History,” the representative added.

As Empower Wisconsin reported last week, the mob ripped down and soiled the famous, 7-foot Forward statue, a proud symbol of progress created by a Wisconsin female artist nearly 130 years ago. Then they proceeded to drag down and decapitate the statue of Hans Christian Heg, a Union colonel who fought and died in the Civil War in large part because he abhorred slavery. They dumped what was left of the statue in Lake Monona. 

“These statues, along with other statues and monuments across the State, serve as important reminders to our history. They should be protected and honored as records of the past that provide important lessons for the present,” Hutton said. “If there is merit for the removal of public statues, discussions should be had within the structure of the appropriate government body, with open and civil feedback from the public.”

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