This article is part of The Wisconsin Idea, an investigative reporting initiative focused on rural Wisconsin.
When rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, military veterans, government officials, and law enforcement were among those seen on display in videos and photos circulating across social media. The insurrection called attention to the presence of right wing extremism in government.
In the wake of the riots, Jim Murphy, a 73-year-old veteran representing parts of Allouez and Bellevue, Wisconsin on the Brown County Board of Supervisors, was identified as the leader of the Wisconsin chapter of an armed Christian Tea Party affiliate called “the Black Robe Regiment.” The city of Green Bay is the seat of Brown County, and home to a growing refugee population, consisting mainly of Somalian people.
In These Times has obtained screenshots and cached posts featuring violent islamophobic rhetoric from personal blogger “J. Morris” and MyMilitia account user “J. Morris”— which appear to be penned by Supervisor Murphy.
“J. Morris” has advertised Supervisor Murphy’s web design business, bragged on MyMilitia about having “run for the county board as a Christian Conservative and Won!” and made reference in another post to the chapter of the Black Robe Regiment that Murphy leads, promising to update the website.
“Let me put the record straight about Islam. It is NOT a religion. It is and always has been a Geopolitical fascist movement,” wrote “J. Morris” in a 2018 blog post.
Later, on August 11, 2020, the MyMilitia user under the same name posited that if “Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Islam and others are well known as foreign enemies…[would] a person who claims to be one and lives here or promotes their agenda not be a domestic enemy?”
Othman Atta, the vice president of the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance, condemned the islamophobic statements.
“Anyone who has such extreme views should not be a public representative who is required to represent and serve all of their constituents,” Atta told In These Times.
The conspiracy theories disseminated by the Green Bay MyMilitia user are familiar to the Islamic community. Atta said this information comes from extreme, “pro-Christian” sites, scattered about the internet. VCY America (TV-30), a Milwaukee television station, routinely bolsters these lies.
The northeastern region of the dairy state has a history of anti-Islamic discrimination. In 2017, a man incarcerated at the Brown County Jail said that he was forced to pray next to a toilet while his Catholic peers used other facilities in the building for religious practices.
In 2014, current Green Bay alderman Chris Wery came under fire for asking a recently graduated member of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Muslim Student Association — who had emailed inquiring about voting transportation access — if she promoted or defended militant Islamic ideology. Wery has since apologized.
Barron County, in the Northwestern tip of the state, has become a central resettlement place for refugees seeking work at the Jennie-O meat processing plant. Similarly, many resettled folks in Green Bay work at meat packing plants in the city.
Awais Khaleel, Secretary for Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance and Dane County assistant district attorney, estimates that Brown County is among the three most populous Muslim counties in the state.
Wisconsin has roughly 50,000 Muslims, ranging from strict practitioners to cultural affiliates, according to Khaleel.
Khaleel said he wouldn’t dignify hate speech with a response but welcomes all people, in public or hiding in the shadows of online comments, to speak with local Muslim leaders, arguing that “[t]he only way to fight this bigotry is through a restorative context.”
In a 2020 post on MyMilitia, “J. Morris” claimed that he took to local elections when he “caught [the board] sleeping and replaced a Lefty.”
“Now they’re stuck with me for 2 years at least. I am a conservative vote and have made the difference on several stupid lefty proposals that we shut down,” read the post.
In June 2020, Murphy voted against a referendum question asking the Wisconsin Legislature to create a nonpartisan redistricting procedure, intended to reduce gerrymandering in the state.
Murphy was among 12 supervisors who, following the 2020 presidential elections, voted for a resolution asking the state to conduct a review of election methods. (The resolution passed 12-10).
On February 17, following six months of debate, the Brown County Board passed a resolution to advance racial equity at the county-level and create an ad hoc racial equity committee, with strong support on the board and as well as from local grassroots activists. (Milwaukee County was the first county in the country to pass a similar resolution in 2019.)
Supervisor Murphy was one of nine nay votes against the resolution and the sole detractor against the subcommittee’s racial equity formation.
Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach could not provide a statement regarding Murphy’s online history, citing an inability to comment on potential complaints before the ethics board.
Supervisor Murphy did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the online comments.
After users faced sweeping bans for promoting false information about the presidential election, Murphy moved the social media for his chapter of the Black Robe Regiment off of Facebook. Murphy is now active on MeWe, an alternative social platform with a history of propagating conspiracy theories.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
We've partnered with the publisher, Haymarket Books, and 100% of your donation will go towards supporting In These Times.
John McCracken is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Belt Magazine, The Capital Times, Tone Madison, Bandcamp Daily, Loudwire, and more. He writes about labor, politics, music, community, and Midwest culture. He lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 2021, he founded The NEWcomer, an independent news project covering politics, arts, and culture in Northeastern Wisconsin. He can be found on Twitter @jmcjmc451.