Peter Burgelis, the first openly LGBTQ supervisor for Milwaukee County, was attacked on the afternoon of Monday, June 19 at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa. The attack, which sent Burgelis to the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery, happened after what he described to news outlets as a “near collision” in the mall parking lot. After the initial incident with the cars, Supervisor Burgelis walked away while the other person involved yelled at him. Shortly after, while the supervisor was checking out at a store inside the mall, the man involved with the near accident came up behind Burgelis, called him a gay slur, and punched him in the jaw.
While the incident itself seems to have stemmed from a road rage incident, it does bring to the fore how violent and dangerous Milwaukee County has been for LGBTQ people recently. Three Black trans women have been murdered this year, and hateful rhetoric has been on the rise in the neighboring suburbs during school board and city council meetings.
According to Burgelis’s page on the Milwaukee County website, he was elected in April 2022 to represent the 15th District. The 15th District, the site continues, “is the heart of Milwaukee County and includes the neighborhoods of Alverno, Merrill Park, Bluemound Heights, Story Hill, Jackson Park, Cold Spring Park, Piggsville/The Valley, Concordia, Johnson’s Woods, Martin Drive, Fairview, Hawley Farms, Lyons Park, White Manor, Washington Heights, West Milwaukee and eastern West Allis.” He is expected to make a full recovery, but his jaw will have to be wired shut for 4–6 weeks.
In a statement regarding the incident, Burgelis stated, “I will never be silenced, nor will I allow this act of violence to detract from our ongoing efforts to secure acceptance and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. If anything, this assault serves as a stark reminder of the pervasive challenges we continue to face.
“The unfortunate truth is that threats and acts of violence against the LGBTQ community persist at an alarming rate. Nationally LGBTQ+ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be victims of violent crime. This reflects a broader pattern of discrimination and intolerance that plagues our society. We have seen a concerning rise in incidents, including the recent bomb threats directed at several Milwaukee-area Kohl’s stores due to their Pride displays.
“It is through resilience and unwavering determination that we must confront these injustices and strive for a future where all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can live without fear of harm or prejudice.”
He also told Urban Milwaukee that he still intends to participate in the county board’s pride month program later this month, despite his injuries.