The Wisconsin State Journal shows the bizarre, but not surprising, ways Madison thinks:
Protesters tore down two historic statues outside the Capitol Tuesday evening — one that has come to represent women’s rights and the other honoring an abolitionist — leaving many people wondering what purpose their removal served to advance the Black Lives Matter movement.
The destruction comes amid a national reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism toward Black people following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop. Local leaders in other cities have removed statues of Confederate soldiers and other symbols of slavery and racism in recent weeks.
In Madison, a group of several hundred protesters on Tuesday evening took down a replica of “Forward,” an 1893 bronze statue of a woman with her right arm extended. Protesters also decapitated and dragged into Lake Monona a statue representing Hans Christian Heg, a Wisconsin abolitionist who bled out in a Civil War battle. Both statues have since been recovered.
Protesters defended their toppling of the statues, framing their actions as a “strategic” move to force politicians and the public to pay attention to problems and inequities that have persisted for centuries.
But University of Connecticut professor Manisha Sinha, a leading authority on the history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, called the removal of these particular statues “misguided” because it opens the door for Confederate statue supporters to ask where the line in historical recognition will ever be drawn.
“Taking down statues of people who represent values we want to uphold is not the way to go,” she said. “These were purely disruptive acts.”
Sinha, who has been outspoken in the need to take down statues of white supremacists, said protesters have a right to be angry over racial injustice. The events in Madison, however, indicated to her that protesters were less focused on any symbolism associated with knocking down a particular statue and more interested in channeling their anger over the arrest of a Black activist onto whatever landmark was found within the vicinity.
Mark Elliott, a University of North Carolina-Greensboro historian who studies the Civil War, said most of the Confederate statues coming down in recent years have been hotly debated for decades. Neither of the Madison statues appeared to be symbols of white supremacy, he said, which makes protesters’ overnight removal of them more risky in terms of sustaining momentum for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The danger in that is losing people’s support and having the action be seen as rash instead of as a well-chosen target,” he said.
Part of what spurred the anger and destruction on display Tuesday evening is a refusal by state and local officials to listen to demonstrators’ calls for change, according to protester Ebony Anderson-Carter.
While Anderson-Carter acknowledged the Forward and Heg statues stood for good causes and movements, those in power are not taking that same stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. Having those statues prominently displayed in Madison creates a “false representation of what this city is,” she said.
“I just hope some people realize that sometimes you need to talk to people in a language that only they understand,” Anderson-Carter said. “Stop trying to make us speak to you in your language.”
Protester Micah Le told The Associated Press in a text that the two statues paint a picture of Wisconsin as a racially progressive state when in reality slavery has continued in the form of a corrections system built around incarcerating Black people.
“The fall of the statues is a huge gain for the movement, though I think that liberal and conservative media outlets will try to represent last night as senseless violence rather than the strategic political move it really was,” Le wrote.