It’s getting ugly in Wisconsin.
A protester in Sun Prairie who has been outspoken in her opposition to Gov. Scott Walker received a death threat this week. And a coffee house in Madison that isn’t shy about advocating Walker’s recall had its storefront window shattered by a rock while a customer was inside.
Heather DuBois Bourenane got a phone call at four in the morning on Thursday, threatening her life and her family’s, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The man said, “You’ve attracted the attention of some very bad people.”
She called the Sun Prairie police department, which is investigating.
“I'm OK,” she said on Facebook. “This is depressing and unfortunate and wrong but it only feeds the need to work together to restore the rule of reason in Wisconsin and beyond. Stay the course. Democracy cannot be bullied.”
Earlier in the week, the Victory Coffee House on Madison’s East Side was violently vandalized.
At around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the 15th, barrista Nicole Swain, 27, was talking with a regular customer, Paul Houseman, who was sitting at a table toward the back of the little café on Atwood Ave.
As Swain started to go back behind the counter and while she was in mid-sentence, there was an explosion, she recalls.
“I thought it was a shotgun blast,” she says. “The force was phenomenal. It was really loud and up close. So I ducked, and when I got up, I could see a rock rolling back toward me from the back wall where it had hit.”
The rock, which she said was about the size of a softball, had a note attached to it.
The note began with a smiley face, and then said, “Kloppy Rocks!!” with another smiley face at the end of the first line. Then it said, “Congratulations and thank you for voting for J. Kloppenburg. Display your free Kloppyrock (tm) with pride.” JoAnne Kloppenburg had run against conservative state supreme court justice David Prosser, narrowly losing to him in April. The note also referred to President Obama’s stimulus law.
The rock was thrown through the window, near a sign that was demanding the recall of Gov. Scott Walker.
“It barely, barely missed Paul’s head,” Swain says.
“I was just sitting there writing and talking to Nicole,” said Houseman, 41, who works for the Madison Community Foundation. “And then there was an explosion, which we thought was a gunshot. The stone came through with such force. It was really, really incredible. It shattered glass all over the café. I was picking glass out of my hair. I hate to sound dramatic, but if that stone had hit me, I wouldn’t be talking to you today.”
The rock apparently missed him by a matter of inches.
“Normally my daughter would be sitting opposite me, and that’s where the stone hit,” he said. “It’s one thing to throw a rock through a window. It’s another to do it when people are inside. It was just shocking.”
Houseman, who is a German scholar and is married to the granddaughter of Nazi resisters, said the incident immediately brought to mind the rise of Hitler. “The first thing I thought about was Kristallnacht,” he said, “and I’m leery about making Nazi comparisons, but it really is what you saw at the beginning of the Nazi era. That’s what starts to feel like fascism.”
Houseman also pointed out a contrast between the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who gathered at the state capitol in February and March to protest Walker without one incident and then, on the day the recall begins, some apparently pro-Walker person sends a rock through a window at high speed, which “but for six inches could have killed a human being.” Said Houseman: “The contrast speaks for itself.”
Houseman’s daughter, Tabea, who is in eighth grade, made a sign for people to donate to the coffee house and supplied a container, “The Window Collection Jar,” which customers quickly filled.
The owner of the coffee house, Patrick Downey, 52, who was not there at the time of the incident, is grateful for all the support from the community. “We got $800 day on the first day and $220 on the second day,” he said. “A 94-year-old man came in to drink some coffee and when I went to give him a refill he gave me a check for $100.”
Downey is disgusted at the person who shot the rock through his window. “You know what really gets me? My kids are always here,” he said. “And sometimes there are 15-20 kids in here. And if that rock had hit any of them, they could have died.”
Downey remains adamant about keeping his anti-Walker signs in his window. “I’m putting up as many as I can,” he said. He also has an American flag in the window, and wants to put up a sign that says, “These colors don’t run.” The person who threw the rock, he added, did run.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Police Use Excessive Force against Occupy Movement."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter