June 24 wasn’t a good night in Madison. The protesters tore down a statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg as well as the “Forward” figure, “an allegorical work meant to embody the state’s motto.” No confederate generals. No slave owners. Maybe they all look alike to the unduly passionate. Maybe they just didn’t care, as they were on a roll tearing down statues and, well, these were statues so why not?
It also wasn’t a good night for a gay Democratic senator who took a picture with his cellphone, which seems to be remarkably ordinary thing to do given that people are taking pictures and video of pretty much everything to do with protests, riots and, is there a long German word for statue tipping? Tim Carpenter was no statue, but got tipped anyway, and worse.
There was movement in the crowd, and then the two women, and possibly a third person, moved toward him. He said there was “no warning whatsoever” that he would be attacked.
“One of the two put her hand over the camera and pushed me back, and then the phone was knocked out of my hand,” he said. “That precipitated it. All of a sudden there were eight to 10 people, kicking and punching and doing all sorts of things.”
He tried to explain he was their ally, a friend, one of them. They didn’t care.
He said he supports peaceful protests and Black Lives Matter.
Like the guy who supports the Leopard Ripping People’s Faces Party, he was shocked that the leopards ripped his face. Leopards will do that. So will the two women who were arrested for the attack.
Whether they were the beaters remains to be proven, but they were identified from surveillance video and turned themselves in to Madison police.
On Monday, after the Madison Police Department released surveillance images of two women it described as persons of interest, the police said the women, Samantha R. Hamer, 26, and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, turned themselves in.
Both women face charges of battery and robbery, the police said. They were being held on those charges in a Dane County jail, inmate records showed on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether they had lawyers.
The question remains, why would anyone beat Carpenter? Why would they beat anyone? Why would they believe they were empowered to dictate whether Carpenter was “allowed” to take a picture, or empowered to stop him from doing so by the use of force?
The state senator posted his video of the incident on Twitter in the hours after it took place. As he records a line of demonstrators on a street, the video shows, two women break away from the group and run toward him. “Leave my phone alone,” he can be heard saying. “Delete it,” one of the women replies. Then the recording goes dark.
There have been arguments raised that videos taken of riots, vandalism and destruction have been used to identify individuals who committed the crimes, and consequently people don’t want others to take videos. There are some people who believe that no one is entitled to take pictures of them in public without their consent. There are people who complain about force used by others while believing they are entitled to use force at will against others whenever they decide it’s justified.
There is a dispute as to whether protests are peaceful, “mostly” peaceful or riots. It’s a silly argument made by foolish people, much as it would be to argue that Charles Manson was a swell guy except when he ordered his minions to murder people. If you want to be a peaceful protester, that’s great. So go to a peaceful protest, not a protest that you know will devolve into violence and riot because it’s done so every night for the past couple of months.
Or when the protest turns violent, leave so as not to be in the midst of the crowd when the rubber bullets and teargas start flowing. You knew it would happen. If you remain, your good faith complaint that you didn’t do anything rings hollow. You chose to be there and to stay, knowing full well what was coming. You made a choice.
That night in Madison wasn’t likely to be a peaceful protest.
The mayor of Madison, Satya Rhodes-Conway, has described the flare-up of violence the night of Mr. Carpenter’s assault as “far from the peaceful protests” the city had seen on previous nights. “The behaviors we saw were incredibly dangerous and intolerable — putting people’s lives at risk,” she said in a statement last month.
She said people were pulled out of cars. Some protesters tried to set fire to a building with dozens of people inside, used vehicles to push through crowds, or tossed firebombs, the mayor said.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway is no Trump acolyte. She’s a gay Democratic mayor. She’s female, for those who pretend that if women ran the world, we would all be riding unicorns. And she called out the protests as riots, with people being pulled out of cars and arson that could have killed dozens of people. In the context of less-than-peaceful protesters being notably less-than-peaceful to others, just regular folks in Madison, destroying statues, even of an abolitionist, pales in comparison. Would the mob cheer a firebomb that murdered dozens of people, much like them?
Tim Carpenter, of course, was a state senator, though it’s unclear whether he wore a sign around his neck identifying him as a person of power against whom the powerless mob was entitled to attack and beat, his bona fides as a friend notwithstanding. Are these the bold and brave revolutionaries whose passion for justice and equity will reinvent our flawed nation to make it a more wonderful place?
On the night of June 24th, a mob of people who believed they were serving the greater good toppled some statues and beat Tim Carpenter. Was it up to them to decide what conduct was so “moral” that they were entitled to inflict pain to achieve their goal? You may find huge and inexcusable fault in the way the government runs things. I know I do. But nobody elected two women like Samantha Hamer and Kerida O’Reilly to make the rules by which society functions.
*I originally wrote “congressman,” but was informed that Carpenter is a state senator, so I corrected my error.