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Potential for violence sparks unease in downtown Madison

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Security is beefed up at the State Capitol for whatever may happen between now and Inauguration Day, but some people say right now they don't even feel safe walking around downtown.

"It's so unsafe for any of our queer folk, including myself, and especially for our local POC," said Lindsey Anderson.

She says she knows people who experienced targeted harassment in the wake of the 2016 election, and after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, she's fearful of it happening again.

"Make no mistake. What happened last week was domestic terrorism. Those weren't peaceful protesters," she said.

Some people at the U.S. Capitol had confederate battle flags and other racist imagery, including one man who wore a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt.

Fearing similar racism in Madison this weekend along with the potential for violence around the State Capitol, Anderson posted on Facebook this week -- offering her car and person as an extra body to help people feel safe who have to be downtown.

Her post sparked others to chime in as well, offering whatever means they had to accompany people downtown so no one would be alone.

Anderson said it was heartwarming to see a response of people ready to help. She said she's been an ally of the Black community throughout the protests against racial injustice over the summer, and she recognized a small way that she, as a white woman, could help now.

"One of the only things I can do right now, besides donating money and time to those organizations currently doing those amazing and heroic things, is offer my car," she said. "But that's something that shouldn't need to happen."

Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson posted on Facebook this week too with a more direct message: "Please stay away from the Capitol."

"You see what happened in our U.S. Capitol last week, and I'd hate to see something like that happen in Madison," Johnson said.

Using part of a recent $5,000 donation, he says the Boys and Girls Club will help move homeless people who sleep around the Capitol into hotels this weekend, out of the way of potential unrest.

"There are some people downtown who already told us they're not leaving," Johnson said. "And there's some who said they could use a hotel and get out of harm's way."

Johnson says he hopes there aren't any counterprotests either this weekend, which he says would only add fuel to the fire. He says he's already heard in the last week of a Black family living near downtown verbally attacked with racial slurs and profanity, including the N-word.

Anderson says that in the wake of all of this tension, it's an important time to check in with friends and family in marginalized communities.

"Keep an eye on your friends and family of color," she said. "Keep an eye on your queer family, your Muslim family, your Native family. There's a lot of people scared."

The FBI says there are currently threats of unrest at state capitols across the country. The Wisconsin Department of Administration asked any state employee who can't work from home to take extra safety precautions this weekend and to not let anyone into state buildings.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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