MADISON, Erase. (AP) – An attack on a biracial woman in Madison was investigated as a hate crime on Thursday after the woman told police she was burned by lighter fluid being thrown at her and ignited by a white man just a few blocks from violent protests in the Capitol.
Althea Bernstein told police she was driving near the Capitol on Wednesday at around 1 a.m. and stopped at a red light with the driver-side window down. Bernstein, 18, told police she heard someone shout a racial slur, looked around and saw four white men.
One sprayed liquid on her face and neck and threw a flaming lighter at her, she told police. Bernstein said she pulled forward, put out the flames, and drove home where her mother encouraged her to go to the hospital. She was being treated for burns. Hospital staff believe the liquid was lighter, police said.
Michael Johnson, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, referred to Bernstein’s house by The Associated Press. Johnson released a statement from Bernstein’s family that they were “saddened by what had happened to Althea and the unprovoked attack on her body. At this point, our family is asking everyone to respect our privacy as Althea is recovering from the burns on her face and neck. ‘
The attack came on a night of violence on Tuesday, including the toppling of two statues outside the Capitol and an attack on a senator. A group of 200 to 300 people protested the arrest of a black man after yelling at restaurant customers through a megaphone with a baseball bat.
Someone also threw a Molotov cocktail into a government building and attempted to break into the Capitol, but was fended off by police pepper spray stationed inside. The violence prompted Governor Tony Evers to activate the National Guard to protect state properties.
On Wednesday evening, about 40 people peacefully gathered outside the provincial prison where the man was being held and called for his release. A crowd of about 100 people gathered outside the Capitol.
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