"We will hunt you down. We will slit your throats. We will drink your blood. I will have your decapitated head on a pike in the Madison town square. This is your last warning."
Is this a passage from Bram Stoker's Dracula? No, this e-mail reached Wisconsin State Sen. Dan Kapanke, a La Crosse Republican, on March 9, after he voted for GOP Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget and labor reforms.
Kapanke is not alone. Top Wisconsin Republicans have been threatened with murder. "Across the whole Republican Caucus, I think we have received at least a dozen, credible, specific death threats," one well-placed legislative staffer in Madison told me. "This was not just 'Go to Hell,' but threats that rose to a level that made people feel unsafe."
Wisconsin's Department of Justice has identified the sender of two specific death threats e-mailed to 15 Republican state senators on March 10. It will not release the suspect's name while investigations continue. However, ponder the suspect's chilling (excerpted but uncorrected) words with this subject line:
Atten: Death threat!!!! Bomb!!!!
We feel that you and your republican dictators have to die. This is how it's going to happen:...We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, this isn't enough...So we have built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won't tell you all of them because that's just no fun.
YOUR STAFF MEMBERS HAVE NOW BEEN ADDED TO THE HIT LIST... PLEASE ADVISE THEM OF THE IMPENDING DANGER LEADING TO THIER DEATHS.
Consider these other death threats:
- Police in Eau Claire, Wis., arrested anti-Walker protester Patrick J. Knauf, 43, on March 2. He allegedly phoned in a bomb threat against Heartland Aviation, where Walker conducted press conferences on Feb. 28 and March 2.
- On the morning of March 3, 41 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition appeared on the Capitol grounds in Madison. "You can't do much with live ammunition without the gun," said University of Wisconsin Police Chief Susan Riseling, "but the presence of it doesn't thrill me."
- Someone slipped a note under GOP State Sen. Glenn Grothman's office door. In red letters, it said, "THE ONLY GOOD Republican is a DEAD Republican."
- Wisconsin Tea Party Patriots coordinator Mike Hintz told WISN-TV what happened when his cell phone rang on March 12: "There was a male caller on the phone and he said, 'I hope you're wearing a bullet-proof vest' and hung up . . . I took it to mean this person was threatening my life by shooting me."
- A Wisconsinite named Bill Spears e-mailed one state Capitol staffer this homophobic message: "You won't have your cushy job very much longer — as soon as we get your boss the f****t Fitzgerald recalled . . . every damn one of you should be exterminated."
Twitter's giant graffiti wall features numerous calls for Walker's murder, complete with egregious spelling and grammatical errors:
- Lauren Kauffman (Screen name — lauren_2121) wrote: "I hope scott walker dies. someone please shoot him?!"
- Josh Harmon (jritsynme): "Scott walker is destroying the state of Wisconsin!!! I wish a anvel would fall out of the sky and KILL the scumbag!!!"
- Jeconti (J-Shack): "Scott walker cut food stamps its over he getting assassinated..!"
Also, Democratic spokesman Graeme Zielinski told WISN-TV that volunteers aiming to recall GOP State Sen. Alberta Darling got roughed up on March 13. "They were physically assaulted," Zielinski said. "They had their clipboards thrown, petitions destroyed, buttons torn off of them."
These death threats are doubly pernicious. At worst, they are truly homicidal, if those sending them actually intend to murder those whom they threaten.
At best, even empty threats are anti-democratic, since they can intimidate elected officials, activists, and other citizens into milquetoast governance and advocacy.