MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A local Republican group in northwestern Wisconsin refused to take down an online message urging conservatives to “prepare for war” despite urging from the state GOP and the violence last week at the U.S. Capitol.
The St. Croix County party’s chairman, John Kraft, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the message went up before right-wing extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. He did not say when it was posted and he didn’t immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Monday.
Tensions are high amid threats of more violence at statehouses nationwide this weekend. Gov. Tony Evers on Monday activated the Wisconsin National Guard Reaction Force to assist police at the state Capitol in Madison.
The governor’s office said in a statement that the force consists of troops trained to respond to requests for assistance on short notice and will serve a “site security mission.” The statement didn’t elaborate, saying to protect security officials it would not disclose the unit’s size, tactics or procedures.
Evers closed the Capitol to the public in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but lawmakers and their aides still work in the building. Workers spent Monday boarding up their windows on the ground and first floors. Molly Vidal, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol, declined to comment when asked if the department has learned of any threats specific to the Wisconsin Statehouse. An FBI spokeswoman also declined to comment.
The U.S. Capitol attack left five people dead including a police officer and has prompted widespread calls for unity and toning down inflammatory rhetoric. Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said in a statement Monday that the party suggested to the county party that the message should be removed, but the county party refused.
The message begins with “if you want peace, prepare for war” and “welcome to the digital battlefield.” It goes on to say that President Donald Trump changed the Republican Party and conservatives have watched for four years as Democrats “in concert with the Marxist left and a complicit mass media has done everything possible to overturn the 2016 election through any means necessary.” It also repeats false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump.
“It’s time to stand and be counted as a conservative warrior in the on-going fight to preserve our Constitutional Republic,” the site says. “Please join us. We need to start local by removing leftist tyrants from all local and County (sic) positions in the future April elections.”
Kraft told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he can’t help what “twisted inferences” Democrats draw from the message.
Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump by about 7 million votes in the Nov. 3 election. Trump maintains Democrats stole the election from him, though no evidence exists of any widespread fraud.
Kraft posted on his Facebook page Saturday that “it’s never been clearer that we are absolutely at war with the left.”
This story has been updated to correct the day of Kraft’s Facebook post to Saturday.
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