Friday, September 7, 2012

Carry Your Signs High!

On Wednesday, newly appointed Commandant David Erwin had his Capitol Police arrest eight people who had the audacity to exercise their First Amendment Right of Free Speech inside the Capital.

Keep in mind that they weren't disrupting anything, causing a disturbance or behaving out of line in any way, shape or form. They were just holding signs.

On Thursday, the stormtroopers infringed on the constitutional rights of three more people.

But they stopped suddenly and arrested no more.

Why is that? Well, because word came down that what they were arresting people for is perfectly legal, even under the Republicans' draconian rules.

Dane County Judge Frank Remington issued his ruling on a lawsuit filed by people arrested last year. Part of his ruling held significance for the crackdown on Free Speech:
"...the language of § Adm. 2.07(2) does not prohibit the Plaintiffs' conduct. The title of the rule is 'exterior and interior displays and decorations.' The text of § Adm. 2.07(2) states that the DOA's express written permission is required for a sign to be 'erected, attached, mounted or displayed.'
"Here, the Plaintiffs were issued citations for holding a sign on the first floor of the rotunda. As such, their signs were not 'erected, attached, [or] mounted,' which therefore means that their actions could only fall within the text of § Adm. 2.07(2) if their signs were 'displayed.' However, the word 'displayed' implies something more than an individual holding a handmade sign over their head. Instead, as is generally known, the Capitol rotunda is frequently a place where freestanding artwork and such things are showcased, especially around the holiday season.

"The term 'displayed' implies something like a freestanding exhibit showcased in the Capitol, not an individual holding a handmade sign over their head comparing the governor to a character in a comic book. Thus, the terms of § Adm. 2.07(2) does not prohibit the Plaintiffs' conduct. Second, the DOA's new Facilities Access Policy supports the conclusion that § Adm. 2.07(2) did not apply to the Plaintiffs' conduct. (Lazar's First Aff. Ex. C). The Policy defines an 'exhibit' as '[a]ny display of... signs or banners not held by an individual.'"
The whole decision can be found here.

The Solidarity Singers were planning on showing up in mass tomorrow as a sign of, well, solidarity. And if the police tried to squelch their rights they'd come back in even greater numbers, just as they have done before. I'm sure they'll be bringing other friends as well.

I hope they do follow through with their plan, just to remind Walker and the other Republicans that there reign is fleeting.

As Representative Tamara Grigsby said after the first day of arrests:
“These heavy-handed tactics in the name of ‘safety’ put our Constitutional rights in peril. We must not only support but celebrate the right of the people to express themselves peacefully, regardless of who is exercising the right or what the message is.

“This is especially true in our Capitol, the People’s House. If basic democracy has no place here, where does it belong? The Capitol Police should be protecting people as they exercise their rights, not arresting them.”
Now, I'm sure that Scott Walker and his teahadist supporters are gnashing their teeth out of frustration from being foiled by the Constitution once again, they really should be sending letters of gratitude to Judge Remington.

After all, if he had not made that ruling, the police would have kept infringing on the people's constitutional rights. That, in turn, would lay the groundwork for the most expensive and historic class action civil rights lawsuit ever seen in this state. The state would have been sure to lose that fight as well. Ultimately, it would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, Walker and his supporters won't ever do that. They simply can't think things through that far, otherwise they wouldn't even be doing what they are doing.


  1. The part that amazed me is that people were arrested for holding up blank sheets of paper. This is closely followed by the fact that shirts and hats can carry messages, but that's OK.

    1. Actually, two of the people were arrested for holding up the T-shirts they'd received that day for giving blood. And to be fair, no one was actually arrested for holding up a blank sheet of paper--one person did hold up a blank piece of card stock, but he didn't have time to go through the arrest processing (it apparently only takes about 15 minutes, but he was on his lunch hour), so he put it away when the CP gave him a warning. If he'd persisted in holding up the blank sheet, though, no doubt he would have been arrested.

      I do want to make it clear that what the Capitol Police were going after this week, the issue of people holding up signs, is a different part of the administrative code than the restriction on group sizes. They haven't officially started enforcing that bs rule, probably because they know there's no chance it would be constitutional. They're just trying to intimidate people.

      I also want to say the State Rep. Chris Taylor has been fantastic this week in holding the chief's feet to the fire. He finally deigned to attend a meeting with her this morning, and he apparently walked out on her when she wouldn't accept his hemming and hawing as an answer (she posted a letter to him on her Facebook page).

      Today we had over 200 people at the Singalong, and on Monday I hope we still have people out in force. Every time they start pulling this crap, it just brings people back in. One of these days maybe they'll learn that.


  2. And when 'they' start in with 'unhinged liberal Dane County judges', etc. Judge Frank Remington was appointed to the post by Scott Walker.