By Patrick Lynn
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is condemning recent xenophobic acts targeting Wisconsinites of Asian descent and encouraging others to do so as well.
An increase in verbal and physical attacks against Asian-Americans have been reported in various communities across the state, including Madison and Marathon Co., likely motivated by fear about he COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, Kaul said.
WPR is reporting that on the UW-Madison campus, 81 instances of bias complaints have been filed with university leaders.
“There have been individuals coughing in students’ faces. They have been engaging in behavior that is — it’s disgusting, it’s unacceptable, it’s racist, and I wanna call it what it is and I want us to do something about it,” Christina Olstad, the university’s dean of students, told WPR last week.
Marathon Co. Sheriff Scott Parks said in an online statement on March 25 that his office was calling for an end to discrimination and xenophobic acts, saying, “It disturbs me when I see actions occurring across this Nation and now even in our community where members of the Southeast Asian population have been verbally and physically attacked along with having their property vandalized or stolen. They are being victimized because misguided individuals have decided to attack them due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is impacting this Nation. Yes, COVID-19 has been identified as coming from a province in China. Also, I understand there is much fear and anxiety occurring in regards to this pandemic. What I do not understand is the why.”
Kaul said he’s been talking with community leaders who are working to raise awareness about the recent acts of discrimination.
“We must stand together and speak out against racism and xenophobia,” Kaul said.
Kaul also pointed out in a Thursday news release that Wisconsin has hate crime provisions under state law and enhance penalties when crimes are committed based on a “belief or perception regarding the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry of” the victim.
Penalty enhancements add up to $10,000 in fines and/or five more years in prison to existing penalties for any conviction, Kaul said.