Wisconsin Coalition Leader Receives Death Threat, Spike In White Nationalist Activity
Laura Bielefeldt, president of the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism was coming home from a trip when she opened a disturbing piece of mail. Bielefeldt, who also serves on a city task force to improve race relations, said she was deeply troubled Sept. 13 to find the threatening racist letter delivered in her family’s mailbox in Burlington WI. The letter came a few days after state education officials sided with Bielefeldt and chastised the Burlington Area School District for mishandling a complaint about football players using racial slurs toward members of an opposing team. Bielefeldt has been subject to racial slurs and threats before but this one “felt so much more personal to me,” she said. The letter was postmarked on Sept. 2 after Bielefeldt publicly criticized Burlington City Leaders for not responding more forcefully toward a Confederate flag display.
Using the N-word, the letter contained the message, “The only good n——- is a dead n——-.” It was unsigned and contained little more except another note that declared, “Breaking news.”
Burlington Police Chief Brian Zmudzinski said investigators are sending the letter and envelope to a state crime laboratory in an effort to find any fingerprints or DNA that could lead to a suspect. The Burlington Police Department have classified this as a legitimate death threat. The U.S. Postal Service has also been involved to identify any other evidence pointing to a potential source for the threat.
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The previous leader of the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism, Darnisha Garbade, reported similar threats and vandalism to her home before she stepped down and moved out of Burlington last year, turning the group over to Bielefeldt.
NSM first ran into Bielefeldt following an incident at a Burlington school where a female Black child was pushed down the stairs and spit on by fellow white classmates. Students had also burned the N word on school property. NSM filmed the school board meeting following this incident where several white parents showed up with “All Lives Matter” signs met with opposition from a local protest group called “The People’s Revolution” (TPR) who we have filmed many times before. The “White Lives Matter” crowd was led by local parent Adrienne Melby who runs the organization “We The Parents”. One of the school board members, Taylor Wishau sported a “Blue Lives Matter” mask and has been a vocal adversary against Bielefedt’s work of having a more inclusive Burlington.
See the Burlington School Board Meeting Here:
Incidents like this are not rare in Southeast Wisconsin, and in fact we have seen a spike in neo-nazi and white nationalist activity following the Waukesha Christmas Parade where Darrell Brooks drove through a crowd of parade participants killing 6 and injuring over 60 others. Brooks was found guilty of 76 charges including intentional homicide and is awaiting sentencing where he faces 6 life sentences plus 859 years.
This event followed the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and has been viewed as a deliberate retaliation attack on white citizens due to Rittenhouse’s “not guilty” verdict, despite law enforcement debunking the false narrative. Rittenhouse showed up in Kenosha WI during the unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Shesky. Rittenhouse shot and killed two individuals and critically injured a third person.
Republican Party leaders like Terry Dittrich gave an interview for a documentary by a white supremacist group, “Terror in Waukesha.” The film was promoted by the National Justice Party (NJP), a group that formed in August 2020. Classified by the Anti-Defamation League as a neo-Nazi organization, the group fixated on Waukesha after the parade tragedy. Along with the neo-facist group Patriot Front, held rallies in Waukesha.
As recently as July of this year, officers of the Waukesha Police Department (WPD) were still monitoring white supremacist activity, including stickers with racist symbols that appeared in public places, emails show. A local Waukesha bookstore had a black stuffed lifesize doll placed outside their doors with racist stereotype features.
“Last weekend we had someone come thru [sic.] our downtown placing stickers on all our street lighting posts causing a public nuisance,” Jefferson Chief of Police Alan Richter said in an email to Waukesha PD. “We have had similar stickers put on signs in our area,” read a July 7 response from Waukesha PD Lt. Chad Pergande.
On Dec. 8 2021, a recruitment video for The Base was posted on the group’s Telegram channel. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), The Base consists of “small, terroristic cells,” often motivated to mobilize more covertly than groups like the NJP. “It is not a group that seeks to build popular appeal,” the SPLC page on the group reads. “Instead, groups like The Base seek to inspire a small number of actors to commit themselves wholly to their revolutionary mindset and act on it — either by forming small, clandestine terror cells or inspiring individuals to carry out ‘lone actor’ attacks.”
Other southeastern Wisconsin communities experienced similar activity. A week before Waukesha’s racist banner drop,
Black families in the city of West Allis reported that someone was damaging property and leaving behind threatening racist notes warning them to leave the neighborhood. In April, William McDonald, 54, was arrested and charged federally with using force and threatening to use force to injure, intimidate and interfere with the housing rights of multiple people because of their race.
Reports of “White Lives Matter” flyers being distributed in the village of Greendale have surfaced online. Photos posted to a private Facebook group focused on the community show a small piece of paper inside a sandwich bag reading “Watch Europa,” “White Lives Matter,” and “it’s time to take a stand.” The city of Kenosha also cited a man who was scattering anti-Semitic flyers around neighborhoods earlier this year.
Last week a Milwaukee mural of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests in 2020, was vandalized. The vandalism came after news broke regarding the fate of two of the officers who were involved in Floyd’s death. And after the mural had been restored, another vandal left a note.
Wauwatosa experienced similar letter distribution during the 2020 protests from a group calling themselves the “Whites For Wauwatosa which NSM covered in their deep dive investigation of the racist MLK Parties that were held by Wauwatosa Police Officers in the late 80’s.
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These are the same types of escalated behaviors that we’ve seen since 2020 which led to violent attacks on protestors across the country and the January 6th Insurrection.
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