UPDATE: Ebony Anderson-Carter of Madison was cited by Lake Mills Police this week for failure to yield to the right of way after pulling out of an angle parking spot at Commons Park on Madison St., on July 3, which she was backed into. Anderson-Carter also received a warning for the illegal parking, non-registration of her vehicle and no insurance.
Although a Black Lives Matter protest that came through Lake Mills Thursday, July 3, was largely peaceful, a car accident that happened the next day involving one of the march’s organizers touched off a social media firestorm about racism.
After tensions escalated, many of the posts were removed, but the police chief said that what angered him was the volley of posts were based on assertions that were not true.
“This is part of what I talked about at the park, (during a peaceful protest last month), was how Facebook and social media can create this firestorm and no one is checking the facts,” said Lake Mills Police Chief Mick Selck.
Since then, after posts have been removed and some sites have deliberately stopped posting, tensions have lessened.
It began on Thursday when young protestors from across Wisconsin marching through Lake Mills on their way from Waukesha to Madison as a part of the 50 Miles More group on Thursday and Friday were a mostly peaceful gathering of youth in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On Thursday night, the group of marchers arrived in Lake Mills around 4 p.m., according to the Lake Mills Police Department.
“We didn’t know this protest was coming to Lake Mills,” said Selck. “They set up at Commons Park. There were about 30-40 people and after an hour they got up and cut across the park and walked into the street by the winery, chanting and yelling.”
The group then went over by El Mariachi, past the former Sentry store to City Hall, where Selck said they may have pounded on some business windows as they passed.
“They went to the Mobil station and were chanting and yelling, making their cause heard.”
Selck said protesters took a “We Back the Badge” sign at the gas station.
“My officers did their best to stop traffic, so they could move freely.”
Protesters went back to the park where they cooked out and gave extra food to the police officers, Selck said.
The group left Lake Mills about 9 p.m. on Thursday night and came back Friday to continue their march toward the capital.
A minor car crash occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, and that was when things escalated.
“Yesterday afternoon (Friday, July 3) an organizer of the Black Lives Matter protest was parked at the park, downtown near El Mariachi. She was backed into a parking stall and a vehicle was parked on her left obstructing her view. When she pulled out there was a car passing by she hit it when she pulled out,” Selck said Saturday.
A video from a squad car dash cam clearly showed she drove into the side of the passing car on Madison Street.
The protester posted a video on Facebook saying a “racist white woman” in Lake Mills hit her on purpose.
“There was an officer driving by and has the whole thing on video. The officers made contact with her, she didn’t request any medical assistance. They dealt with the car crash and it was a normal standard car crash,” Selck said. “The woman involved with the group has gone online and created a narrative using a false name to say a racist white woman ran into her downtown. She was trying to get people to come to Lake Mills at that time. She said she needed medical assistance and an officer drew a gun on her or a friend. There are people searching to find this woman online. It’s implied they are going to do something to her.”
Police squad car camera footage shows the organizer in a silver car pulling out of the stall she had backed into, hitting a white SUV as it drove down Madison Street, where the silver car was parked.
It is illegal in the state of Wisconsin to back into an angle parking stall, Selck said.
The person illegally parked in the angle spot was cited for failure to yield to the right of way and warned for non-registration and no insurance as well as illegal parking.
The organizer whose car was damaged posted pictures of the woman and her license plate on her Facebook page. The photos were taken by other protestors at the park, who surrounded the woman’s car while she talked with police.
News of this confrontation spread on social media.
The Lake Mills Community Network on Facebook and a Facebook group calling itself Lake Mills Citizens’ Coalition for Racial Justice have had posts taken down about the incident.
Since then, The Lake Mills Citizens’ Coalition for Racial Justice posted Monday the group would be taking a break for a couple of days.
“That means there will be no new posts approved for 48 hours. This group is meant to be a place for respectful discussion and learning; however people are feeling that they can’t participate due to outside influences and fear within the group,” organizer Andrea Graham posted.
The Lake Mills Community Network administrators are now also approving all posts to that site and the Lake Mills Community Forum has been removed from Facebook by the organizers, according to Selck.
“We have people in the community who have bought into the narrative,” Selck said addressing the social media story about the car accident and the ensuing firestorm.
Selck addressed these kinds of social media issues at the Black Lives Matter protest in Commons Park.
“Each connection with the woman and police was positive. Then she goes on social media and is opposite,” Selck said.
The organizer, Ebony Anderson-Carter, 29, has been helping to organize protests in the Madison area since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25. In a live video on Facebook on July 5 that has since been removed, Anderson-Carter stated she was injured in the crash, but refused medical help. She also said the KKK was present in Lake Mills during the rally last week.
The Leader heard reports of people driving around the park earlier in the day displaying Confederate flags. Lake Mills Police confirmed the flag was present at one point.
“The victim of this incident is the person who was run into. This person needs to be scared for their safety and some people in Lake Mills are perpetuating that,” Selck said.
The woman whose vehicle was hit by Anderson-Carter is not from Lake Mills and stayed at the scene to speak with police officers about the crash. The two women did not speak at the scene after the crash, according to police body camera footage viewed by the Leader. The woman whose car was hit is heard telling officers she felt intimidated when her car was surrounded by protestors who were taking videos and photos of the interaction.
“I don’t like our city being in turmoil, especially when it’s not true,” Selck said of the situation.
At about 4 p.m. Friday the group left the city, heading to Madison with stops along the way in other towns.
Anderson-Carter has stated on Facebook she plans to come back to the city to try to start a dialog with police and community members after not feeling welcome in Lake Mills.
The youth walking from Milwaukee to Madison, 50 Miles More, called on elected officials to support Black lives, the Black LGBTQ+ community and called on them to end gun violence.
The group advocated for the following from Wisconsin elected officials:
• Gov. Tony Evers to condemn use of teargas and rubber bullets
• Another special session on gun violence and a special session on policing in Wisconsin
• Act on the requests of BlackLivesMatteratschools.com
• Funding for violence prevention
• The state Department of Corrections to release incarcerated people due to prison overcrowding and the inability to social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic
• Wisconsin elected officials to support Black women and Black LGBTQ+ community
“Gen Z has grown up watching videos of Black people being brutalized and killed by police, and we are traumatized,” said Bria Smith, organizer of the Milwaukee to Madison March. “We are calling on all of our elected officials to support Black youth, especially young Black women and Black queer youth in Wisconsin, by committing to being anti-racist.”
The youth completed their march Saturday in Madison with rallies at the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The 50 Miles More march follows in the footsteps of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. In 2018, the group organized a similar march from Madison to Janesville, the hometown of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, to demand gun-control legislation.
“I applaud the young people who get involved to make positive change,” Selck said. “I hope the group feels safe enough to reach out to us to work collaboratively. If there had been notice I think a lot more people from Lake Mills would have came out.”
Selck emphasized he is always willing to hear citizen comments about how his department can be better.
“I’m always willing to meet with people who have questions or concerns about policing in Lake Mills,” he said.