Althea Bernstein, an 18-year-old Black woman, was attacked by four white men and suffered second- and third-degree burns when the men used a spray bottle to douse her with lighter fluid and throwing a lighter at her.
“I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the N-word really loud,” she said. “I turned my head to look and somebody’s throwing lighter fluid on me. And then they threw a lighter at me, and my neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face.”
Bernstein put out the fire and was later treated at a nearby hospital.
Describing the men as “classic Wisconsin frat boys” who were intoxicated. Two of them were wearing all black and the other two wore floral shirts and jeans.
Far right protestors have shown up in Hawaiian shirts to counter Black liberation demonstrations, but it is unclear whether they are directly connected to the movement.
Bernstein’s attack happened amid ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the city and across the country.
“A Black woman named Althea Bernstein was set on fire by white men in downtown Madison, and the news has basically ignored it in favor of talk of statues and damaged businesses,” said Chet Agni, the communications director for Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes.
The Madison Police Department is now investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, and are looking into surveillance footage of the incident, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said in a statement.
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