Genevieve Redsten, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Shorewood community leaders Monday called for a white lawyer who spat on a high school student during a protest to be disbarred and charged with a hate crime.
Eric Patrick Lucas III, a black 17-year-old Shorewood High School junior, helped organize and lead an anti-racism rally and march in Shorewood Saturday. Stephanie Rapkin, a 64-year-old Shorewood resident, showed up to that protest and parked her car in the street to block the march. When protesters approached her, urging her to move her car, Rapkin spat on Lucas -- prompting outcry from the community.
"I continue to be mentally and physically shaken. To be assaulted by an adult in my own community during a pandemic was traumatic," Lucas said. "Again and again, I am viewed not as a child but as a color."
Shorewood police detained Rapkin on Saturday evening and she was booked into the Milwaukee County Jail on Sunday. Her bail has been set at $950. Rapkin faces charges of battery and disorderly conduct. Community leaders called for those charges to be taken further.
Rapkin could face additional charges for shoving a local college student during a verbal dispute in front of her house, which was caught on camera.
The victim, Ithaca College senior Joe Friedman, had confronted Rapkin for spitting on Lucas. Rapkin told Friedman she had been defending herself after being shoved by Lucas. She proceeded to shove Friedman, saying she was demonstrating the supposed shove. Friedman's mother Debra Lehman filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook.
"You just put your hands on me," Friedman said after Rapkin shoved him. "That is assault right there. Wow, I just got that on video, ma'am."
Shorewood superintendent Bryan Davis praised Lucas and the other protest organizers, while denouncing Rapkin's behavior. The incident, Davis said, "exposed the horrific, overt racism that still exists in our community" and was an "appalling display of racial hatred."
Davis called on the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office to include a hate crime penalty enhancement for any upcoming charges against Rapkin. Rapkin's behavior, Davis said, was more than just disorderly conduct — it was "racial hatred aimed at disrupting a peaceful demonstration."
"If we, as Milwaukee County, are going to treat racism as the crisis it is, we must make sure that law enforcement and our criminal justice system look at these types of incidents through a racially-motivated lens," Davis said.
Shorewood School Board President Paru Shah said the school board has heard from many students over the years that discrimination is a problem within the Shorewood community.
|Stephanie Rapkin (Photo: Milwaukee Sheriff's Office)|
"We know from listening to our students over the last five years that what happened to Eric was not an isolated incident in our community," Shah said. "They have told us that they feel fearful, unwelcome, and unwanted in Shorewood."
State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, attended the protest Saturday where Rapkin spat on Lucas. He said Rapkin was acting from a place of "white fragility" when she blocked the march with her car and spat on Lucas. Bowen has called for Rapkin to be disbarred.
Bowen noted that he is 33 years old and Eric is 17. Bowen said he attended his first protest in 2002, against a KKK rally.
"How many years will pass by before we eradicate black people being killed by the police?" Bowen asked.
Lucas said the incident was discouraging, but he hopes the community can come together to push for a better future.
Going forward, Lucas said he hopes he can be "the youth leader that repairs the mistakes of our elders." He added, "I am a young black man with hopes to be loved by a world and a country that wronged him before he was born."