wisconsin capitol
Press Release
June 24, 2015

Scott Walker Twice Removed African-American Art; Refused to Call for Removal of Confederate Flag

Walker Also Silent on Calls to Take Down 2010, 2012 Voter Suppression Billboards, Including Those Paid for by His Campaign Co-Chair

MADISON, Wis. — As Governor and as Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker personally had artwork depicting African Americans removed from public buildings, one piece featuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing near a dove with a sign reading “Vote!” and another featuring a multicultural group of children playing together in a Milwaukee neighborhood. Yet just this weekend, Walker refused to call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol, claiming it was a “state issue.”

Walker also refused calls in both 2010 and 2012 to have nearly 100 voter intimidation billboards, placed in urban areas all across Wisconsin, taken down. A joint investigation by One Wisconsin Now and theGrio.com’s Joy-Ann Reid showed the billboards in 2010 were paid for by the $830 million Bradley Foundation, run by Walker’s campaign co-chair, Michael Grebe.

“Gov. Scott Walker didn’t hesitate to order the removal of art featuring African-Americans, but refused to call for removal of the Confederate flag, a defining symbol of slavery and discrimination against African Americans,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “It’s a test of character and Scott Walker failed miserably.”

Walker has also received seven separate $500 contributions from Texas white supremacist Earl Holt of the Council of Conservative Citizens, whose writings reportedly influenced the individual who massacred nine African American churchgoers in a racially-motivated terror attack in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2003 as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker personally directed that a mural depicting African-American struggles be removed from a prominent location in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. It had been loaned to the County by the Art Museum at Marquette University where the piece generated no complaints, according to the museum’s curator. Walker’s office claimed it had received “six to eight” calls, so they immediately removed it. The mural, painted by Elliott Pinkney and seen below, included a reverent depiction of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a sign which read “Vote!”

WattsHappeneding, Elliott Pinkney
WattsHappeneding, Elliott Pinkney

In 2011, Gov. Walker had the painting Wishes in the Wind removed from the Governor’s Mansion and replaced with a painting of an eagle. Wishes depicted three children of different races playing with bubbles in a Milwaukee neighborhood. The artist, David Lenz, won first place in Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery for his previous work.

Wishes in the Wind, David Lenz
Wishes in the Wind, David Lenz

The Confederate flag is not the only controversial, racially-charged display Scott Walker has refused to demand be removed. In both 2010 and 2012, voter intimidation billboards were put up around Milwaukee. An investigation by One Wisconsin Now and theGrio.com and MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid revealed a large Walker donor was the anonymous “Private Family Foundation” behind the billboards and the billboards in 2010 had been paid for by the foundation run by Walker’s campaign co-chair, CEO of the $830 million right wing Bradley Foundation. Emails later ordered released by the court in a criminal investigation of close Walker aides and associates in Milwaukee revealed that Walker had directed his staff to provide assistance in obtaining the information used on the billboards.

2010 Voter Suppression Billboards
2010 Voter Suppression Billboards
2012 Voter Suppression Billboards
2012 Voter Suppression Billboards

“As we have seen for 25 years, Scott Walker puts his limitless personal political ambitions first, even when it includes pandering to right wing racists,” said Ross. “No wonder Texas white supremacist Earl Holt donated $500 seven separate times to Scott Walker since he has been Wisconsin’s governor.”

Walker has a dismal track record on issues of race, displaying insensitivity if not outright hostility on issues with racial implications. A small sampling of Walker actions include:

  • Repealing state law requiring racial profiling data collection;
  • Changing state laws to eliminate weekend voting and “souls to the polls” voting drives popular in the African-American faith community and requiring a photo identification to vote that could disproportionately impact minority voters;
  • Advocating for criminal penalties that have led to skyrocketing rates of incarceration and higher rates of incarceration of black men than demographically similar neighbor state Minnesota;
  • Repealed a state law allowing undocumented students who graduate from Wisconsin high schools to pay in state tuition at state colleges, the only state in the nation to repeal such a law.

Recently, One Wisconsin Now’s education and research arm filed a federal lawsuit over a series of Walker laws which targeted African Americans to deny them access to the franchise.

More information about Walker’s record is available at www.OneWisconsinNow.org.

# # #

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

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