Arrests started today in our State Capitol in Madison. Their target? The Red Cross. (Updated information: No, it wasn't the Red Cross, but some sign carrying peaceful protesters near their blood drive. People just standing there with signs. No disruptions or anything that would merit police intervention).
Police arrested eight protesters in the state Capitol on Wednesday for holding up signs - including ones promoting the Red Cross - without getting permits.
On Wednesday, police told 14 protesters they could not hold up signs on the Capitol's first floor while the Red Cross was conducting a blood drive. The Red Cross had a permit; the protesters did not, according to police.
Six of the protesters agreed to go outside to continue their protests, but eight refused. Those eight were arrested and ticketed for unlawfully displaying signs, according to the Capitol Police.
Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) said she saw one protester being arrested for holding a sign that said, "It's about freedom."The Walker administration, emboldened by his "win" in the June recall elections, appointed a new chief of the Capitol Police shortly after the election. The new chief indicated that crackdowns would begin against any group without a permit with no indication of when they would begin.
"If they're not being disruptive, if they're not causing trouble, they should be allowed here," Sinicki said. "These people aren't hurting anybody."
Stacy Harbaugh, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, called the permit requirement unreasonable.
"Police Chief Erwin has made an irresponsible statement in characterizing these peaceful protesters as being disruptive," she said in a statement.
They began today.
This is OUR House. The name we've called our State Capitol for decades. It's always been open to the public. Always. Until Scott Walker became Governor and didn't like the public that came to the Capitol in protest of his agenda and policies.
The Solidarity Singers gather daily to sing songs of democracy and solidarity. They have been considered the #1 target of the severe new Walker administration restrictions on the use of public facilities by the public.
I certainly hope that they'll have observers from the ACLU tomorrow.
Our Capitol has a police state.
More information as it becomes available.
An editorial was posted on The Capitol Times opposing the new rules and planned enforcement:
The chief’s duty is not to serve the governor, or Miller for that matter.
The chief has a duty to keep the peace.
And he has a duty — just as absolute — to ensure that Wisconsinites are free to exercise the rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution and in the state constitution, which declares: “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.”
The key word there is “never.”
If the peace is not kept on Erwin’s watch, his tenure will be counted as a failure.
If the right to dissent is not maintained on Erwin’s watch, his tenure will be counted as equally failed.
Professional law enforcement officers recognize that there are few gray areas regarding the right to dissent.
They know there is little reason for legitimate leaders, or law enforcement agencies, to fear that right.