By Adam Kelnhofer and Caroline Kubzansky for WisPolitics.com.
A small crowd gathered near the site of next week’s Dem National Convention in Milwaukee today to hear Brandon Straka, the founder of the #WalkAway movement, slam the Dem Party’s emphasis on identity politics and call for racial and sexual minorities to abandon the party.
“They don’t care about the content of your character,” Straka said of Dems to the crowd of about 150. “They just care what you look like. They love to make a lot of assumptions about your morality and your character, and the type of person you are. And let’s face it: these days, on the left, if you have white skin, if you’re a man, if you’re a heterosexual person, you’re basically the devil.”
#Walkaway is a movement advertising itself as made up of former Democrats, particularly LGBTQ individuals or people of color, who became disillusioned with the Democratic Party.
The rally took place in downtown Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square — roughly seven blocks from the Wisconsin Center, the site of the largely virtual Democratic National Convention. Joe Biden scuttled plans to travel to the city to accept the nomination due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Few in the crowd wore masks. While the state’s mask order does not require masks in outdoor settings, a Milwaukee ordinance requires masks outdoors when within 6 feet of others who are not in one’s household or family.
Straka estimated that roughly half the crowd were converted Dems.
Straka in an interview disputed that police brutality disproportionately impacts Black people.
“We have numbers, we have statistics, to show that Black people are not disproportionately being killed by the police, and it’s not a real thing,” Straka told WisPolitics.com. “That’s a lie that’s being told so that we can continue this white supremacy narrative.”
Among attendees were Tim Rogers, a Republican candidate for Milwaukee’s 4th CD who led opponent Cindy Werner by 82 votes in a race yet to be called for Tuesday’s primary; and Jessi Ebben, who lost her GOP primary bid for western Wisconsin’s 3rd CD to Derrick Van Orden.
Ebben, a former Democrat until attending college at UW Eau Claire, told WisPolitics.com she was against Act 10 because she thought her parents, both teachers, would lose their jobs if the act passed. She said she started investigating right-of-center ideas shortly afterward and found that conservatism reflected many of her values.
Outside groups running ads in the 3rd CD GOP primary knocked Ebben for signing the recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker. She lost with one-third of the vote.
“At UW-Eau Claire, a more liberal university, I became a Christian conservative Republican,” Ebben said. “And there’s a lot of people who have made that same switch and that same mindset change as well, and we need to welcome them into the Republican Party.”
Rogers said he supports groups like #WalkAway because they are about love and peace. He said from what he’s seen, the BLM movement has been the source of a lot of violence.
Attendee Ulises Wilkinson, 22, pivoted to conservatism after voting for Bernie Sanders in 2016. He came from his hometown of Chicago to attend the event.
“I fell into this really deep, dark part of my life and was watching videos on YouTube, political videos. I started waking up. I saw what was going on in Venezuela,” Wilkinson said. “During April of last year, I saw this one Vice video of Black liberals and Black conservatives debating, and I saw what Black conservatives were talking about, and that was a turning point for me.”