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West Allis man pleads guilty to harassing Black neighbors

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West Allis man pleads guilty to harassing Black neighbors

Mar 30, 2023 | 12:14 pm ET
By Isiah Holmes
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West Allis man pleads guilty to harassing Black neighbors
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A display made in Civic Park, Kenosha, after the protests, unrest, and shootings that occurred in late 2020. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)

A West Allis man pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges for intimidating Black neighbors early last year. William McDonald, 45, pleaded guilty to a felony count and misdemeanor count of intimidating and interfering with Black residents because of their race. McDonald left racist notes outside the home of Black neighbors, and vandalized a vehicle to discourage them from living in his apartment building.

Court records said that McDonald slashed a woman’s car tires outside her apartment in 2021. The man smashed a windshield, and left a note riddled with racist slurs and threats. The note demanded that the woman move away from West Allis. In April 2022, after another Black woman moved into the apartment, racist graffiti was left on her door demanding she leave.

“The conduct at issue in this case strikes at the very core of the civil rights guaranteed to every American citizen under federal law,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press release. “I commend the courage of those targeted by Mr. McDonald for coming forward. The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to working with all our federal, state and local partners to hold individuals who violate the civil rights of others fully accountable under federal law.”

McDonald’s harassment of Black neighbors occurred against a backdrop of similar racist activity in the Milwaukee area in 2022. Two years before, as Black Lives Matter protests rallied against police brutality, anti-Semitic fliers were distributed in West Allis neighborhoods. During the same summer, some residents in Wauwatosa began receiving “Whites for Wauwatosa” letters, which implored white residents to stand together against “the blacks and their lack of morals.”

Waukesha County began experiencing white supremacist activity after the Christmas parade tragedy in that community, in which a Black driver wrongly described on right-wing social media as a “Black Lives Matter activist” slammed into pedestrians killing six and injuring dozens.. Anti-Semitic fliers were also distributed in Kenosha, and Kenosha’s NAACP president experienced racial harassment. “White lives matter” fliers were distributed in the Milwaukee suburb of Greendale and a Geoge Floyd mural was vandalized in the city of Milwaukee. As Wisconsin neared the end of an election cycle in November 2022 criticized for having racist undertones against U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, charges were announced against a 62-year-old white man in Milwaukee, who choked a 24-year-old Black man and accused him of stealing a neighbor’s bike.