If you have been following events in the past week or two in the Wisconsin Capitol, you know that Scott Walker's newly appointed Capitol Police Chief has been "cracking down" on peaceful citizens assembling to sing and hold signs.
The new chief, David Erwin, has his officers stalking people with video cameras and selectively issuing ridiculous citations against certain Capitol regulars. The officers are stressed by the abuse they are taking from their chief and by the fact that citizens have taken to peacefully videotaping their laughable tactics as they make their rounds through the rotunda. All the recording I have seen has been done quietly and from a safe distance with no intent to interfere with the police. The other day, at least one of the officers apparently snapped under the pressure and threatened an ACLU legal observer. Here is her story of what happened:
Chief Erwin has made a total mess of things since deciding to arbitrarily and imaginatively invent new interpretations of old administrative code. In his attempt to discourage the daily Solidarity Sing Along, he has only managed to outrage other citizens who have swelled the ranks of the singers from a couple dozen to over 75 per day, even numbering in the hundreds a couple days. Local newspapers and television stations have editorialized against his thug tactics, citing sections of the U.S. Constitution, the Wisconsin Constitution, and Wisconsin law which clearly indicate that citizens have the absolute right to peaceably assemble and petition the government in the public areas of the state Capitol.
As Wisconsin Assembly Rep. Pater Barca told a Milwaukee TV reporter yesterday, the Constitutions trump Capitol rules.
After a court decision last week smacked down his strategy of issuing "illegal display" tickets to people holding signs, he has now instructed his officers to hand out tickets to people holding banners over the rotunda railing, claiming they are a danger under the section of code that deals with hazardous materials and machinery being stored in hallways.
I wish I could say I was making that up. We are supposed to believe that if 10 ounces of felt bearing a quote from the Wisconsin Constition were accidentally dropped on a statue of Fighting Bob LaFollette below the railing, all hell would break loose and the building would have to be evacuated. There's no other way to describe it than silly. No wonder the officers are looking embarrassed these days.
Apparently the banners aren't that dangerous because the officers don't do anything to stop people from holding them, they just show up at their homes and offices later and issue them citations.
HAZARD ALERT! DANGEROUS WORDS BELOW! WATCH YOUR STEP!
Wisconsin Constitution, Article I, Section 4
The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.
8:17 AM PT: Some State Representatives along with a few State Senators have written another letter to the Police Chief requesting he stop the harrassment of peacefully assembled citizens. Good read.