Madison City Councilman Gary Halverson Resigns After Threats and Vandalism | local government
Madison Ald. Gary Halverson said on Wednesday night he planned to resign from the City Council after receiving threats and having his house vandalized, a week after news broke that he was briefly with the Oath Keepers.
Halverson said his wife suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to past trauma and the harassment triggered her.
“For anyone who has PTSD or lives with someone who has, knows that when something kicks in it’s absolutely terrifying and the terror can last for days, weeks or longer. I don’t want to put him through , her or my family longer,” he said in an email.
Halverson said he failed to properly vet the far-right group and quit shortly after joining. After news broke of his membership in the group, he was criticized by Chairman of the Board Keith Furman and Vice Chairman Jael Currie. Oath Keepers have been accused of playing a key role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.
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“I am deeply saddened that our current political state is filled with fear and bullying tactics. The end justifies NO means,” Halverson said in the email. “I started this journey to help my community because that’s who I am. I’m proud of my accomplishments and have been honored to work with so many great people who live and work in this city.”
Madison Ald. Gary Halverson, in an email to city council members on Wednesday, said he received threats and his home was vandalized after news broke that he had briefly joined a far-right group in mid-2020.
Halverson also asked council chairman Keith Furman, who along with council vice-chairman Jael Currie had publicly condemned Halverson’s association with the Oath Keepers, to speak out against the attacks on his family and property.
“Since your statement was inciting, I have asked you to please speak out against the physical attacks and vandalism directed at my home and my family,” he said. “Your words, like those of Donald Trump before January 6, 2021, have incited others to violence.”
Founded in 2009, the Oath Keepers is a loosely organized group fueled by conspiracy theory that asks its members to pledge to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”, promotes the belief that the federal government is there to strip citizens of their civil liberties and portrays its supporters as defenders against tyranny. The group has been accused of playing a key role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Halverson said he joined without fully understanding what the band was.
In response to Halverson’s email, Furman emailed him and the rest of the council saying that “threats and vandalism are unacceptable” but that “our statement was not the cause of your problems – they are your past actions Your desire to deflect is disappointing.
Madison Police Department spokesman Hunter Lisko said police responded to a complaint of vandalism on Halverson’s property Wednesday morning, but no further information was available and an investigation was ongoing. Lisko had no information available about the threats made against Halverson, who did not respond to a State Journal request for comment Wednesday.
On Sept. 7, the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism identified Halverson as one of six elected officials from Wisconsin whose names appeared on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists.
Halverson, elected to serve the East Side’s 17th District in April 2021, responded by saying he joined the organization without verification and is no longer a member.
“I thought I joined an organization that welcomed veterans who cared about our democracy,” he said in a Sept. 7 email. “I was misled and terminated the membership two months later in August 2020.”
A day later, Furman and Currie condemned Halverson’s association with the band and said it was up to him to decide if he could continue on the board “that secret now being public”. They also said the information calls into question the motivation behind Halverson’s public votes and that voters will have the opportunity to decide who will represent them in April 2023.
Halverson released an additional statement later in the day saying he left the Oathkeepers four months before the 2020 presidential election and was “still disgusted by the heinous attack on our democracy on January 6” .
On Sept. 12, Halverson posted a note on his city’s webpage saying it had been a tough week for him and his family, and thanking voters for their overwhelming support.
“I made a mistake joining a group that cheated on me and other veterans. I quickly corrected it. I apologize for the embarrassment, distraction and pain this has caused,” a “Statements and comments by other elected officials calling me a white supremacist or associating me with one are heinous, extremely offensive and possibly defamatory,” he said.
In his Wednesday email to the council, obtained by the State Journal, Halverson called Furman and Currie’s statement “misleading and cruel” and said it led to “threats against me, including vandalism at home”.
“I don’t expect you to acknowledge or appreciate that I disavowed and left the organization prior to the 2020 presidential election and the events of January 6,” he said.
Furman shared two emails in response, one sent to Halverson and all board members and a second to Halverson.
In the first email, Furman said he would not engage in a back-and-forth via emails to all council members, called threats and vandalism unacceptable, and accused Halverson of hijacking.
In the email to Halverson, Furman reiterated, “I’m sorry you’ve been vandalized and receiving threats. No one deserves this and it is completely unacceptable.
He also asked if Halverson could point to parts of the joint statement that were inaccurate and that he would be happy to correct it.
“You had every right to join this group and I certainly have every right to be disgusted by it,” he said.
Furman also sent Halverson the Wikipedia page on Oath Keepers from May 2020.
Currie had not responded to requests for comment.