Four White Men Set a Black Woman on Fire. How Did Meghan Markle Respond?

Published June 29th, 2020 - 09:25 GMT
Althea Bernstein, 18 (pictured), an EMT, was driving to her brother's house in Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday at 1am when four white men approached her car and yelled out 'n****r'. (Althea Bernstein)
Althea Bernstein, 18 (pictured), an EMT, was driving to her brother's house in Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday at 1am when four white men approached her car and yelled out 'n****r'. (Althea Bernstein)
Meghan Markle, 38, spoke with Althea Bernstein, an 18-year-old Black woman who was the victim of an alleged hate crime in Wisconsin last week

Meghan Markle has reportedly been in touch with a biracial woman who is said to have recently survived an alleged hate crime.

An assault on Althea Bernstein, an 18-year-old EMT from Wisconsin, is being investigated as a hate crime after she was allegedly burned by lighter fluid thrown at her and ignited by a white man. 

Michael Johnson, the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, has been in touch with Althea, and told how the Duchess of Sussex, 38, reached out to him after reading about what had reportedly happened to her. 

He said the royal had a 40-minute phone conversation with Althea, and Prince Harry joined in for 10 minutes of the call on Saturday afternoon.   

Speaking to Channel 3000, he explained: 'Her and Meghan talked about the importance of self care and allowing herself to heal.'

'And she applauded her for the way that she responded and pretty much said, "Hey, Michael, give me her cellphone number. I want to stay in touch. And let me know when you want me to come back and talk to people in Wisconsin.'''

Speaking of how Althea is doing, Michael continued: 'She's struggling. 'It's a challenge for her. It's very, very emotional. I talked to her three or four times today, and I'll tell you Meghan lifted her spirits.'

Taking to Twitter, he penned: 'On the phone with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the Duchess of Sussex.'

'Prince Harry shared that young people voices matter and Meghan has agreed to talk with girls in Wisconsin and we will be scheduling that soon. Thank you for caring!'  

The incident occurred at about 1am on Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin, as Althea was driving to her brother's house.

She had stopped at a red light with her driver's side window down when she heard someone yell out 'n****r.' She looked around and saw four white men by her car.

One sprayed liquid on Althea's face and neck and threw a flaming lighter at her, she told police.

According to a police incident report, the attackers used a spray bottle to spray lighter fluid on the teenager's face. 

Althea described the four white men to Madison365 as 'classic Wisconsin frat boys.' 

Two were allegedly wearing all black, and the other two were wearing jeans and floral shirts.

Over the last month, groups of far-right counter-protesters wearing Hawaiian shirts have disrupted Black Lives Matter demonstrations. 

Althea believes all four men were intoxicated during the incident.

She said she pulled forward, put out the flames and drove home where her mother encouraged her to go to the UW Hospital emergency department. 

Althea was treated for second- and third-degree burns, and told Madison365 that she was put through a decontamination routine to get the lighter fluid off her skin because i it was continuing to burn her. 

'They had to pretty much scrub the skin off, which was extremely painful,' she said. 

'Burn pain is something I can't even really describe. I don't know how to describe it. It was horrible.'

Althea will need to repeat the procedure every few days and, once she heals, will have to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damage.

Police say they are looking at surveillance footage to see if any part of the attack was captured on camera.

Althea said her happy childhood memories of growing up in Madison have been overshadowed by the memories of this attack.  

'I never really knew someone could hate you just by looking at you,' she said.

'They didn't know me. I didn't know them. I was just driving my car and minding my own business.'

In spite of all this, she told Madison365 that she's glad the men didn't attack someone more vulnerable,

'I'm glad it was me, and not someone like a pregnant woman, or a child, or someone who doesn't have the health care that I do or the support system that I do,' Althea said.   

The assault came amid a night of violence on Tuesday that included the toppling of two statues outside the Capitol and an attack on a state senator. 

A group of 200 to 300 people protested the arrest of a Black man after he shouted at restaurant customers through a megaphone while carrying a baseball bat.

Someone also threw a Molotov cocktail into a government building and attempted to break into the Capitol, only to be repelled by pepper spray from police stationed inside. 

The violence prompted Gov Tony Evers to activate the National Guard to protect state properties.

On Wednesday night, about 40 people gathered peacefully outside the county jail where the man was being held, calling for his release. A crowd of about 100 people congregated outside the Capitol. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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