Madison man harasses Black artists, gets fired.

After a video of a white Madison man yelling at Black artists painting a mural spread across Facebook, his employers let him go. Graphic: Sam Buisman
Listen to the audio version of this story, originally aired on 7/21/20, here.

Author: Sam Buisman

A Madison man who harassed a trio of Black artists over their murals lost his job after a video of the event spread online. 

On Sunday night, a group of Black artists was painting commissioned murals on the 400 block of Wilson street when 60-year-old Randy Abendroth, who is white, stopped his car on the street to jeer at the artists. A video posted by one of the artists to Facebook captured this part of the incident, as Abendroth called the murals honoring police brutality victims Elijah McClain and Oluwatoyin Salau “racist” and asked the artists where they lived. 

According to a Madison Police Department incident report, one of the artists then called the MPD non-emergency line to report the harassment but shortly thereafter called 911 when Abendroth returned on foot and continued to question the artists. Police arrived on the scene and persuaded Abendroth to leave, assuring him that the artists were in no violation of the law. 

The MDP made no arrests related to this incident, stating later in their incident report that “It appears communications – coming from them, and from the man – are protected by the First Amendment.” 

However, after video of the confrontation was posted on social media, Abendroth’s employer, EMS Industrial, Inc., announced Monday night that they had fired Abendroth. 

The father of one of the artists said through a Facebook post that he was able to call and talk to Abendroth, but he described their conversation as “tone-deaf,” saying that Abendroth gave a seemingly disingenuous apology and “just didn’t get it.” 

The artist’s family and Urban Triage, a local non-profit activist group, also criticized the MPD for not taking further action to protect the artists. According to their incident report, the MPD’s investigation into this incident is still ongoing.