Wisconsin man who allegedly ripped down statue of abolitionist is also charged with looting a jewelry store
Chuck Ross on June 27, 2020
Police in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday charged a 30-year-old man in connection with the looting of a jewelry store during protests in May over the death of George Floyd, and for his alleged role in toppling a statue of an anti-slavery Civil War hero earlier this week.
Kelsey D. Nelson was charged with burglary after he was identified on camera looting Goodman’s Jewelers in the Wisconsin capitol on May 30.
Nelson was part of a large group who broke into the jewelry store and stole tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise, according to WMTV, Madison’s NBC News affiliate. Nelson himself took $10,000 worth of jewelry, the police report stated.
Police also said that Nelson was identified from surveillance camera footage exiting an SUV that was used to tear down a statue of Civil War hero, Col. Hans Christian Heg, on June 23.
The removal of the statue generated widespread outrage because of Heg’s role in the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War. Heg was a member of the Free Soil Party, which formed in the 1850s to oppose the expansion of slavery in the United States, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The statue was erected in 1895 to honor Heg, who, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, led a Union brigade that battled Confederate troops in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. He died in September 1863 after being shot in battle.
“What happened in Madison last night presented a stark contrast from the peaceful protests we have seen across our state in recent weeks, including significant damage to state property,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tweeted on Wednesday.
A police incident report said that surveillance footage showed a crowd using chains attached to the SUV to tear down the statue, according to WMTV. The report also said that investigators were able to track down the SUV, and that it is registered to Nelson.
Nelson faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted on both charges, WMTV reported.
Tim Carpenter, a Democratic state senator, said he was also violently attacked during the riots in Madison on the same night the Heg statue was torn down. He said on Twitter that he was kicked and punched by protesters, and that he believed he suffered a concussion.
“Innocent people are going to get killed,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Protesters have attacked statues and monuments across the country. Many of the statues have been of Confederate generals, though some of Founding Fathers have also been targeted.
Protesters in Washington, D.C., attempted this week to remove the Emancipation Memorial, a statue of Abraham Lincoln standing over a freed slave. Students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison also sought to remove a statue of Lincoln this week, with one activist claiming that even though he opposed slavery, “he was very publicly anti-black.”
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