Even in the era of Donald Trump, there are still consequences for blatant acts of white supremacy.
That’s the message the Milwaukee Common Council sent Thursday after it terminated contracts worth nearly one million dollars with a small business whose workers were filmed at a city job site displaying Ku Klux Klan artwork and brandishing firearms.
According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the city passed a resolution unanimously that sidelines American Sewer Services from existing and pending contracts. “The agreement also prohibits American Sewer Services from rebidding on either of the contracts,” the report adds.
American Sewer Services owner Dennis Biondich had apologized to officials and reportedly fired the worker who displayed the KKK artwork prominently on his cooler, and one of the men who brandished a firearm.
But when asked to appear at a council meeting discussing the matter, he failed to show up, saying he was dealing with a personal issue, according to reports.
Two Aldermen, Mark Borkowski and Bob Donovan, argued against terminating the contracts. A company in business with the city for over 30 years should not be punitively punished for the actions of a few workers, they tried to explain to fellow council members.
Another Alderman, Nik Kovac, was having none of that during debate. He not only called for complete termination, he criticized Borkowski and Donovan for defending the blatantly racist workers.
“Given the amount of facts we have now, a reasonable person would say that racism was clearly tolerated on a day-to-day basis at that company,” Kovac said.
The termination, as well as the restrictions on future contract bidding outlined in the resolution, will hit American Sewer Services hard. The company has been awarded $50 million in contracts with the city of Milwaukee since 2013 alone.
President Trump won traditionally blue Wisconsin in a narrow upset over Hillary Clinton. Many experts have attributed his victory to a wave of working class voters who have become disillusioned with the Democratic Party. They chose the Manhattan billionaire, according to this theory, as a kind of desperate cry for help.
But it’s clear the state is also home to a sizable population of white supremacists who have become emboldened now that the man who said a Nazi rally in Virginia had “some very fine people” attending it, and who called for more immigrants from countries like Norway and fewer from “shithole” countries like Haiti and those in Africa.
Milwaukee’s actions today show that, while the limits of acceptable speech may have moved under President Trump, the limits are still there, and crossing them has real consequences.