One day after witnesses reported groups of black teenagers attacked white patrons on the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair, Gov. Scott Walker called in the State Patrol to ensure crowd safety for the remainder of the fair.
Organizers also implemented new rules to bar unaccompanied minors from entering the fairgrounds after 5 p.m., something fair CEO Rick Frenette said was a first in his 40 years there.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, fights started breaking out among black youths around Thursday around 7 p.m., then around 11 p.m. witnesses said dozens to hundreds of black youths began attacking white patrons as they left the fair, punching and kicking them and shaking their vehicles.
Police, still trying to piece together what sparked the violence, said the initial early evening fights did not appear to be racially motivated, although witnesses said the subsequent attacks were.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
“You could just tell they were after white people. That was the main thing. If you were white, they were coming after you,” said Jon Stikl of Oak Creek.
He said he was stuck in traffic as a group of young people blocked cars near the fair gate on S. 84th St. near I-94 after he picked up family members attending the fair.
“We noticed a group of five to 10 young black males run up and jump a young white male for no other reason then him being white,” Stikl said.
They knocked him to the ground, and then a group of 15 black men kicked and stomped on him, Stikl said.
“My wife’s brother jumped out of the car – his natural reaction was to try to break it up. Before you knew it, five or 10 guys were on him and started punching at him. My wife was able to pull him back in the car. So now they surrounded my car and just started punching through the windows, kicking and shaking the car, screaming racial things.”
He said there should have been more police presence, given that disturbances were reported inside the fairgrounds shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I was disgusted by the lack of security. It’s a black eye on the State Fair” and police, he said.
At least 31 people were arrested, many for disorderly conduct, and 11 people were injured — seven of whom were police officers. Authorities said they initially had trouble determining the exact number of injuries because people kept coming forward.
“We can normally handle anything in the park,” State Fair Police Chief Tom Struebing said.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor has been reviewing the Thursday night incidents and made the decision to order in the State Patrol to provide extra help, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“We will continue to evaluate the situation and make any adjustments necessary to ensure a successful and safe event. We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that parents feel that it is safe to bring their children to the world’s best fair,” Werwie said in a statement.
West Allis Mayor Dan Devine strongly condemned the violence, saying in a statement, “thuggery has no place at the Wisconsin State Fair, or anywhere in our society.”
“It is appalling that a group of hoodlums has cast such a negative light on what is traditionally a safe and family friendly event,” he said.