Republican Thuggery: Racine Edition (With Advice to the Racine GOP)

By now many Wisconsin citizens have heard about the trouble those trying to recall Scott Walker have faced here in Racine (our own Phil Scarr wrote about the issue here.).  An article in the Racine Journal Times catalogued the problems encountered by petition gatherers near a laundromat by River Run Family Restaurant, 3616 Northwestern Ave. on Friday, and outside All Sports Pub, 3458 Rapids Drive on Saturday.  Here’s a quote from the Journal Times article: 

Kelly Gallaher, the organizer for the local progressive group Community for Change, said when she was with a group of people on Friday near a laundromat by River Run Family Restaurant, 3616 Northwestern Ave., someone sped directly at a group of organizers. People ran out of the way, she said. “It was that close,” Gallaher said.

Also on Saturday, a driver deliberately backed his vehicle toward people collecting signatures outside All Sports Pub, 3458 Rapids Drive, Gallaher said. That same day, Gallaher said someone threw a big glass of soda or some other drink at a man collecting signatures outside the Social Security Office, 4020 Durand Ave.

“It’s concerning,” Gallaher said. “My biggest fear is that someone is going to get hurt.”

No, nobody wants someone to get hurt over collecting signatures for a petition to recall Governor Walker.  Indeed, nobody wants intimidation of people exercising their constitutional electoral rights.  Gosh, even the GOP Chair of Racine County claims he doesn’t want that. 

Bill Folk, chairman of the Racine County Republican Party, said he couldn’t comment on the specific allegations without confirmation that they happened.

“I would never assume anyone would do such a thing,” Folk said. But if it’s true, he said, “I’m appalled… It should not be done.”

That quote was also from the article in the Racine Journal Times from November 29th, but Mr. Folk’s story has since changed, at least according to the quotes he gave to reporter Denise Lockwood for their story of November 29th

Bill Folk, chairman of the Republican Party of Racine County, said the member of the Republican Party, who did not want to be named, admitted that he had “probably taken things too far.” But Folk explained that he was only aware of a verbal confrontation.

It should be noted that Mr. Folk’s second comment came after the identification of the license plate of the car from Saturday’s alleged incident, and that Mr. Folk is not just admitting a Racine Country GOP member was involved, but then goes on later to deny the substance of most of the allegation. 

The interesting part to this whole thing is what Mr. Folk admits to.  He admits that he and others in the Republican Party are watching out for small businessmen in the Racine area, afraid that if those businesses allow petitioners to gather petitions on their land that this could be an “awkward situation politically.”  Mr. Folk told the following:

Folk said he’s advising his Republican members not to confront petitioners, but to talk to the businesses about their decision to let petitioners on their property.

“Whether they are pro/against, we’re encouraging business owners to reconsider having petitioners on their property because of how it could be perceived,” Folk said. “So we’re going with a balanced approached.”

I think he’s hit the nail on the head, as is starkly revealed in this description of the incident by Root River Siren (nice picture of the alleged miscreant in the article):

Lastly, Bill Folk maintains that the recall volunteers had no permission to be at the site because Emil Infusino asked them to leave. This is clever word-smithing by Folk to leave the impression the volunteers were trespassing. He’s lying.

Emil Infusino gave them permission several times. He gave it over the phone, he gave it in person and he gave it to his employees. He did ask the volunteers to leave after receiving a barrage of nasty calls and witnessing a crazy man yelling profanities at women outside his business, shouting and taking pictures of a retired police officer and then putting his Lexus reverse (while in the street) in an irresponsible attempt to intimidate a person who had been given permission to be there.

Infusino was basically terrorized and mortified, what possible choice did he have?

“Barrage of nasty calls.”  “a crazy man yelling profanities at women outside his business.”  “shouting and taking pictures of a retired police officer and then putting his Lexus reverse (while in the street) in an irresponsible attempt to intimidate a person who had been given permission to be there.”  These don’t add up to a gentle call Mr. Folk suggests is being made to businesses to warn them of the political awkwardness of their position.  But we may never see an official police report about this incident, and we’re certainly not going to see anything in the Racine Journal Times.  The absolute truth here is up in the air.  But we know two things. 

First, we know Bill Folk was not an eye witness.  His testimony is not admissable in any court in the land.  He’s covering for the owner of that Lexus that many people think intimidated them.  My speculation is that the owner of the Lexus, positively identified by the petitioners, is scared to own up to his actions and has asked Mr. Folk to cover for him.  Most of that covering has been in the nature of assertions for which Mr. Folk provides no proof, and accusations which he cannot back up.  In essence, Mr. Folk is making up stories, and I will treat those stories as made up of whole cloth until he provides proof.  The real eye witnesses have at least the proof of what they saw (and pictures). 

Second, the GOP of Racine County have taken to calling small businesses and telling them how to run their businesses.  (Some refer to these calls blatant intimidation.)  Perhaps those calls are not always as nasty as those to which Root River Siren refers, but even a polite call, as Mr. Folks admits to advising his people to make, interferes in the business practices of these entrepreneurs.  I say let them make their own decisions about how to run their business, but that’s not how Bill Folk sees it.  Mr. Folk, small businesses are the engine that runs our economy, and I call on you to let them alone and let them make their own decisions. 

I’m going to close by mentioning that there are no reports so far of people calling the offices of the perpetrator of this incident, despite the ugliness alleged on the part of that perpetrator.  Nor has anyone called Mr. Folk’s place of business to complain.  Certainly it is not hard to find the numbers to call, either.  It might be that the petitioners and those who support them are far more polite than to resort to that sort of behavior.  It may also be that Mr. Folk has been threatening people with lawsuits, and that they are being quiet for that reason.  Who knows? 

But it is a FACT that Mr. Folk threatened me by email.  He claimed that, assumedly on behalf of the Lexus driver, he would bring a libel suit if I reported on the issue.  I’ll produce that email if Mr. Folk decides to actually bring that suit, but he deserves warning on two counts.  First, libel suits must cross a pretty high bar when the subject of them is political speech.  My first warning, therefore, is that he consult the constitution and relevant Wisconsin statutes.  No, I’m not scared, because I know the law.  Secondly, lawsuits entail the discovery of facts.  The defendent in such a suit is allowed to ask questions, and lots of them.  There’s no way to keep such discovery out of the newpaper.  Mr. Folk does not want that.  Not one little bit.

I’ll give some further advice to Mr. Folk, head of the Racine County GOP.  Stop the phone calls to businesses, or pretty soon you’re going to see a small business rebel at your tactics.  Also, rein in your people, or the next ugly incident with harrassed petitioners will likely be much harder for you and your Racine County GOP Board members to escape. 




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3 thoughts on “Republican Thuggery: Racine Edition (With Advice to the Racine GOP)

  1. We’re getting a lot of reports here in Waukesha of similar behavior. I’m in possession of some video of the behavior people are exhibiting. Some of it’s funny, but some of it is clearly meant to intimidate and is very inappropriate. Frankly, if people want to counterprotest, they should. But they don’t have the right to intimidate other Americans who are doing what they think is right.

  2. Phil, I’m not complaining about intimidating petitioners. I’m most concerned when they strongarm small businesses. But that behavior will bite them in the ass in the end.

  3. That cant be the way they had a coniption when the union guy sent that letter earlier in the year. There is no hypocrisy on the right is there?

    I also love how republicans who puts tort reform at the top of their list, always threaten to sue…..

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