"This is unusual for Wisconsin," said the Republican senator, who blocked Juneteenth from becoming a federal holiday last year

By Sean Neumann
June 21, 2021 05:04 PM
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Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson
| Credit: Ebony Cox-USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA

Sen. Ron Johnson was loudly booed during an appearance at a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday in Milwaukee.

The boos directed at Johnson, 66, came after he blocked legislation last year to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and after he reluctantly voted in favor of the same measure last week.

"Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate," Johnson, a fierce ally to former President Donald Trump, said in a statement last week.

"While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter," the Republican said.

Congress quickly passed the bill last week and President Joe Biden signed it into law on Thursday, making Juneteenth the nation's 12th federal holiday.

On Saturday, Johnson shared several images of him at Juneteenth celebrations in Kenosha and Milwaukee, where he received what many news outlets described as an expected bit of backlash when he showed up at the Milwaukee event.

"As more people recognized him, he was drowned out by a chorus of boos," the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

"We don't want you here!" crowds chanted at Johnson, while others added "nobody wants you here!"

Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson
| Credit: Toni Sandys-Pool/Getty

The Journal-Sentinel reported that some attendees swore at the senator, who gave on-camera interviews while crowds increasingly began to gather around him and chant.

"This is unusual for Wisconsin," Johnson told the newspaper afterwards. "Most people in Wisconsin say, 'You are in our prayers; we are praying for you.' ... But you got some people here that are just sort of nasty at some points."

Johnson told the Journal-Sentinel that the booing was "not how you heal the nation." 

"You come down here and try to interact with people and be nice to people. But this isn't very nice, is it?" he said.

Video of the incident shared online showed more and more people gathering around Johnson as he gave interviews to TV news reporters. The crowds then chanted at him as he walked away after he ended the interviews.

On Sunday, Johnson took to Twitter to complain that "the media" was "pushing a false narrative about my objection" last year against making Juneteenth a federal holiday. "I said in Milwaukee yesterday, this is a day to celebrate," he tweeted.

Yet, ABC News reported that last July, Johnson had blocked a bipartisan effort to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, citing the costs of paying federal employees who now get the day off.