Madison City Council leaders condemn another member’s association with a far-right group accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Council Chairman Keith Furman and Vice Chairman Jael Currie said they were “disgusted” to learn that Ald. Gary Halverson had belonged to the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders.
The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism on Wednesday identified Halverson as one of six elected officials from Wisconsin whose names appeared on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists.
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Halverson, who represents District 17 on the east side of town, responded by saying he joined the organization without verifying the organization and is no longer a member.
“I thought I joined an organization that welcomed veterans who cared about our democracy,” Halverson wrote in an email Wednesday. “I was misled and terminated membership two months later in August 2020.”
Furman and Currie dismissed that notion in a statement saying “the group’s extremist positions have been well known since its founding over a decade ago.”
“Mere seconds of online research reveal that the Oath Keepers are a far-right anti-government group, not a veterans or democracy preservation group,” they said. “As the nation responded to the murder of George Floyd, this group promoted its membership using anti Black Lives Matter statements.”
Halverson, who was elected to the council in 2021 after running unopposed, released an additional statement on Thursday saying he had resigned four months before the 2020 presidential election and was “still disgusted by the heinous attack on our democracy on January 6”.
“I have many friends from all political walks of life because I believe relationships are what build a strong community,” Halverson wrote. “I have endorsed many different candidates, including our current Democratic candidates for Senate, Congress, and Governor.”
Furman and Currie paused before calling on Halverson to stand down, saying voters will decide in April whether he should serve a second term.
“It’s up to him whether he can continue as Alder as that secret is now public,” they said. “Having this information certainly calls into question the motivation behind his votes.”
The sites both drain into Starkweather Creek, which empties into Lake Monona, where health officials have warned anglers to limit their fish consumption.
“Ultimately, my heart is in serving my community, which I do every day to the best of my ability,” Halverson said. “My constituents in District 17 know it, my friends know it, and my fellow councilors know it.”
Using a database compiled by transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets, the Anti-Defamation League scoured more than 38,000 names to identify hundreds of law enforcement officers, including police chiefs and sheriffs, as well as members of the military. The group found more than 80 people, including six in Wisconsin, running for or holding public office.
Founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers is a loosely organized group fueled by conspiracy theory that asks its members to pledge to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”, promotes the belief that the federal government is willing to strip citizens of their civil liberties and portrays its supporters as defenders against tyranny.
More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers – including Rhodes – have been charged in connection with the January 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates will stand trial this month on charges of seditious conspiracy in what prosecutors described as a week-long plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and there was no plan to attack the Capitol.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.