Robert Thelen, a resident of the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, has gone public with his experience of harassment by Trump supporters following an act of arson outside his home. Unknown vandals burned a pride flag, an American Flag and a Biden 2020 sign on Thelen’s front lawn.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Thelen opened up about the attack on Facebook last week. The previous Sunday (August 16), Thelen rushed into his front yard after his niece noticed flames outside a window. There, he found the flags and Biden sign torched as an unknown vehicle sped off into the night.
Thelen managed to extinguish the flames before the fire spread to his home. When police arrived on the scene, they declared the incident an act of arson, though stopped short of labeling it a hate crime. In the days following, Thelen opened up on social media about the attack, and received an outpouring of support.
“I thought I was just lonely and alone in this, but I’ve been getting good messages,” Thelen posted on Facebook Wednesday. He added that the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented him with a new American Flag after the attack, and that the Democratic Party of Waukesha County has also offered to provide a new pride flag and Biden 2020 sign.
With that outpouring of support, however, has come pushback. Thelen reports that Trump supporters have also targeted him for harassment on Facebook, accusing him of staging the incident, or of embellishing details for attention.
“I’m getting harassing messages from some Trump supporters saying that I’m making this all up just to make them look bad,” Thelen told the Journal Sentinal. Others, he says, have claimed that “kids” started the fire, and that it had no political or homophobic motives.
According to further posts on Facbeook, Thelen says both a second sign and the new pride flag were stolen following the social media attention to the incident. He now has his new flags and yet another sign displayed on his lawn.
Still, Thelen refuses to back down or be intimidated into silence. “On our 3rd sign,” he posted to Facebook, along with an image of the new display. He’s also added a pro-Biden bumper sticker in the colors of the pride flag to his car.