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An image on the personal Facebook page of a veteran Wisconsin lawmaker shows a group of black men celebrating atop a vandalized Baltimore police car and the words: “Want to stop riots? Play the national anthem. They’ll all sit down.”

The racially and politically charged meme posted on the page of Republican state Rep. Ed Brooks, of Reedsburg, on Nov. 11, 2016, appears to be an altered Getty Images photo taken during riots in Baltimore in April 2015 in response to the police killing of Freddie Gray.

To protest police killings of black Americans and racial inequality, some pro football players have in recent years chosen to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is credited with starting the trend.


The racially and politically charged image that state Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, shared two years ago on his Facebook page.

Brooks was first elected to the state Assembly in 2008, according to the biography on his legislative home page, and has served on the town of Reedsburg board since 1979.

Brooks told The Associated Press that the meme “was posted in humor” and he’d “hate to see somebody take it out of context.” Brooks says he simply meant that people who riot probably wouldn’t stand for the anthem.

The image Brooks posted surfaced as another Sauk County city, Baraboo, is dealing with the fallout from the international attention garnered by a six-month-old photo that appears to show a group of Baraboo High School boys giving a Nazi salute. The photographer has said the boys were asked to wave to their parents for the photo.

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Chris Rickert is the urban affairs reporter and SOS columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.