Madison Alder Gary Halverson has resigned from the Common Council nearly a week after admitting he briefly joined the far-right white supremacist and anti-government group Oath Keepers in 2020.
“My wife has PTSD from past trauma and the last week has been extremely triggering,” he wrote in the statement. “Violence against women is a very real issue and having unknown individuals come onto our property and vandalize it is traumatic. For anyone who has PTSD, or lived with someone who does, knows that when something happens that is triggering, it is absolutely terrifying, and that terror can last for days or weeks or longer. I am unwilling to put her or my family through this any longer.”
Local TV station WKOW reported that the words “RACIST OATH KKKEEPER” were spray painted on Halverson’s property. In an email to Council leadership, Halverson also said he’d gotten threats. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that he also asked Council leadership, who last week expressed that they were “disgusted” to learn he had joined the Oath Keepers, to condemn the threats and vandalism.
In response, Common Council President Keith Furman wrote “threats and vandalism are unacceptable,” but added, “our statement wasn’t the cause of your troubles — it’s your past actions. Your desire to deflect is disappointing,” the State Journal reported.
Halverson’s past membership came to light in a list of current and past members acquired and published by a non-profit called the Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), and republished by the Anti-Defamation League.
Halverson has said he was “misled” and joined the group in mid-2020 thinking it was “an organization that welcomed veterans who cared about our democracy.” He said he terminated his membership two months later in August of 2020, but has provided no documentation of that.
He has not said publicly who misled him or what led him to join, nor what led him to terminate his membership.
In June 2020, when Halverson joined, the Oath Keepers were in the public eye mostly for counterprotesting against the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the organization as “one of the largest far-right antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.” It has been operating since 2009 and were prominent supporters of President Donald Trump, opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement going back to 2014, and antigovernment extremists. Many members are among those who’ve been arrested for their roles in the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Halverson represented the city’s 17th district on the northeast side. Usually, vacancies on the Common Council are filled by appointment. Application deadlines were not immediately available Wednesday night.