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Assembly Republican Bob Gannon makes obscene gesture toward Democrat Peter Barca

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Rep. Bob Gannon

MADISON — Minority Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly are enraged after a Republican representative made an obscene gesture toward their leader on the chamber floor.

It happened Tuesday, January 12th on the first day of the 2016 legislative session.

Senate Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) rose to argue with Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) over a news release Gannon issued last week complaining about Milwaukee’s homicide rate and how more homicides occur in black neighborhoods with high unemployment rates.

Gannon, a Slinger Republican, made an obscene gesture toward Barca. The minority leader looked shocked and demanded Republican leaders reprimand him.

The exchange went as follows:

Gannon: “If Milwaukee wants to export something, how about you export safety and jobs? Thank you Mr. Speaker.”

Barca: “It’s bad enough, Mr. Speaker, that this release comes out. If the gentleman’s misunderstood, he can certainly stand up and apologize, and say ‘look, I’m misunderstood. I didn’t mean…’ Did you just give me the finger? Mr. Speaker, I’d like to make a motion to reprimand him! He just stood up — I’m sure WisconsinEye will plainly show him giving me the finger. What is wrong with you?”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, hurried out of his office and whispered to Gannon, who then stood up and apologized for making what he called an improper gesture in the heat of battle.

“I need to put out an apology, Mr. Speaker. In the heat of the battle, I made a gesture that was — that is improper for the floor, and I apologize for that,” Gannon said.

Barca called the gesture a sad commentary on Gannon’s leadership. Barca released the following statement to FOX6 News:

“It is a truly sad day for the state of Wisconsin. Today, a Republican legislator made an obscene gesture on the Assembly Floor.

While I accept Rep. Gannon’s apology, his racially tinged rhetoric and disrespect for the institution are reprehensible.

Assembly Representatives should uphold the highest standards of conduct in our people’s house. At a time when we should be working together to address our challenges, under Republicans it’s unfortunate that the real concerns of Wisconsinites are falling on deaf ears.”

“It is disgrace on this body if we allow that to represent us — if we allow that to be what we`re known for. Some reprimand must happen to the gentleman of the 58th,” Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) said.

Bowen issued this statement:

“Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s economic engine and its biggest revenue producer, and it is disturbing that someone who lives only a “nine iron” away is so unfamiliar with the incredible value that our largest city provides our state – and the incredible potential for our state if we improve the lives of the people living throughout Milwaukee.

Today, legislators from both parties, from all corners of the state, came together to pass legislation that addresses heroin abuse, an issue that greatly affects rural areas. This included legislators that don’t represent these areas, because it is good for our whole state when we pick each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Yet, Rep. Gannon, and those on the other side of the aisle who agree with him but who may not be quite as animated, say Milwaukee’s problems are Milwaukee’s alone. In doing so, they choose to separate themselves from ‘We’re in this together’ and instead embrace an ‘It’s your problem, you fix it’ mentality. They have effectively taken themselves out of the equation when it comes to addressing the root causes of poverty, and they have taken themselves out of the equation when it comes improving our state by improving our largest city.”

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement:

“About a week ago, Republican legislator Bob Gannon issued a press release that blamed the state’s struggling economy on Milwaukee, saying that the City leads in ‘murders and mayhem.’  Gannon, from Slinger, went on to offend people of color across this great state by writing that the majority of these ‘murders and mayhem’ occurs in ‘mainly black neighborhoods.’

If I could address Mr. Gannon, I would ask him why he issued this release.  What would drive a state legislator to actively discourage developers, entrepreneurs, and professionals from building and creating their businesses and homes in our state’s largest city, Milwaukee?  I would go on to ask him, what was the impetus for him to offend African-American Wisconsinites?

In 2010, I became the first Latina woman elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature in 2010.  I am also an out and proud member of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community.  I have always felt an immense responsibility to advocate for underrepresented communities.  So while Republicans might say that Mr. Gannon doesn’t speak for them, their policies are nearly as bad as Mr. Gannon’s rhetoric.  I would note that the bills below are just a few examples of the exclusionary, divisive policies that have permeated this body this legislative session.  The people of the great state of Wisconsin deserve to know they live in an accepting, open, and just community.

  • AB 469 – An anti-LGBT equality “bathroom bill” that would discriminate against young transgender people.
  • AB 450 – An anti-immigrant bill that would prohibit local governments from putting policies and ordinances in place that would encourage undocumented immigrants to cooperate with law enforcement to improve public safety for all Wisconsinites
  • AB 492 – Another anti-immigrant bill that seeks to use local resources to enforce federal immigration law on people who come in contact with local government officials.
  • AB 620 – An anti-Native American bill that would allow the destruction of Indian burial mounds.
  • SB 533 – Another anti-immigrant bill, anti-Milwaukee bill introduced in response to the City and County of Milwaukee passing legislation that would allow Milwaukeeans to obtain a local ID.”

While at least one other Republican, Rep. Jesse Kremer said her personally apologized for what Gannon did.

Vos did not — saying he wanted everybody to “move on.”


  • realalize

    Actually, all of you who defend the acts of either party and name call, belittle or insult the opposite because of their choice of political party are the disgrace to society. You all bicker back and forth as if any of those “politicians” from either side actually give a 5hit about you… You guys do exactly what they want you to. You guys are the puppets and don’t even realize it. Grow a pair and think for yourselves

  • Jan Roepke

    People who refuse to accept an apology and move on- they are no bettter than than the person who first offended.
    My God, two grown men argue . it happens every day. Don’t make a mountain out of this molehill.
    Brush it off and start working on more important business

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