The owner of a West Allis bar was convicted of a fire code violation last week for purposely setting a statue of President Barack Obama on fire inside the establishment last May.
Karen Schoenfeld, owner of Yester Years Pub and Grill, 9427 W. Greenfield Ave., was ordered by a Milwaukee County court judge to pay an undisclosed amount for pouring a flammable liquid and igniting it in proximity to customers—particularly given her admitted intoxication— that created an unacceptable risk of fire.
Schoenfeld failed to show up for trial and was found guilty by the court.
Members of the Milwaukee Branch NAACP were present for the hearing. “We are pleased with the result,” said Jerry Ann Hamilton, local NAACP president.
“We are pleased to have closure on this incredibly disrespectful and dangerous incident,” Hamilton continued in a press statement.
The statue burning gained national attention when the incident appeared on the Internet and drew the ire of many African Americans who saw the statue burning as a hate crime.
Upon learning of the incident, the Milwaukee NAACP became involved and brought the actions by Schoenfeld and the bar to the attention of West Allis police and fire departments.
Not only did the organization focus on the racial implications of the incident in the bar, they also noted the inherent danger in Schoenfeld’s actions.
“This case shows that political speech can cross the line,” Hamilton said. “Ms. Schoenfeld is free to assert her political beliefs and foster hate, but she cannot do so in a manner that endangers her employees, patrons and neighbors.”
Wendell Harris, First Vice President of the Milwaukee NAACP branch, said the incident serves as a sad reminder of the history of abuse against African Americans.
“This country has a long history of lynching, burning and mutilating African Americans,” Harris said. “The NAACP recognizes there is a right to political speech in this nation, and we strongly support that right.
“However, if in the exercise of political speech persons depict the lynching, burning and mutilation of an African American, the Milwaukee Branch NAACP will exercise its right to oppose their views.”
Harris added that if the organization has reason to believe that a crime may have been committed, or public safety threatened, “we will urge law enforcement authorities to hold the responsible individuals accountable for their actions.”
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