Madison mayor calls assault of Black woman ‘horrifying and absolutely unacceptable’

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has denounced the assault of a Black woman that police are investigating as a hate crime.

Early Wednesday morning a Black woman, 18-year-old Althea Bernstein, was reportedly attacked by four white men while she was stopped at a stoplight on Gorham Street around 1 a.m. She told police she heard someone yell a racial slur before one of the men sprayed her face with lighter fluid and threw a lit lighter at her, igniting the fluid.

“This is a horrifying and absolutely unacceptable crime that I will not tolerate in Madison,” Rhodes-Conway said. “While we are still learning more about the details, current information suggests this may have been a premeditated crime targeted toward people of color, which makes the incident even more disturbing.”

Rhodes-Conway said she reached out to the Madison Police Department immediately after learning of the crime and asked them to use all available resources for the investigation.

An MPD detective has been assigned to the investigation. Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014.

“We must show kindness and compassion for each other, and we must care about the safety and well-being of those around us,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I will do everything in my power to help support and protect people in Madison and quickly address any criminal activity that threatens our safety.”

News 3 Now does not identify victims of a crime but has done so in this case because the woman gave her permission.