Walker administration drops permit requirement for Capitol protests

This is a victory for free speech.

To settle a free speech lawsuit, Gov. Scott Walker’s administration agreed Tuesday to pay more than $88,000 in attorneys fees and drop its hard-and-fast requirement that larger groups protesting in the Capitol receive a permit.

The Walker administration faced a federal trial in January over the permitting requirement as part of a lawsuit brought by a protester with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. Under Tuesday’s agreement, the state Department of Administration would keep its permitting rules in place but also would allow up to five days of demonstrations if protesters simply give the state two days’ notice.

Michael Kissick, the University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of medical physics and human oncology who brought the lawsuit, said the settlement provided a significant shift in how the state handles demonstrations. Instead of having to ask permission, now protesters can simply provide a heads up, he said.

“If you’re going to have a party, you might give a courtesy call to your neighbor,” he said. “You don’t ask permission….It’s neighborly.”

No word yet on whether Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson still believes protesters in the Capitol should get a permit, but I’ll let you all know if I find out.

What’s been missing in the ” singalong ” debate.

Federal Judge William Conley’s ruling. That’s what’s been missing from the back and forth about whether or not the solidarity singalong should be required to get a permit to protest in the capitol four days a week from noon to 1:00 pm.

To my knowledge the only blogger, until now,  to post a link to the ruling is Lisa Mux over at Waukesha Wonk in a post titled  ” Federal judge’s ruling hailed as “a huge victory for free speech” in Wisconsin “.

I read most of the ruling a few weeks back and my understanding of the relevant aspects is this: Judge Conley found portions of the DOA permit policy unconstitutional, namely, that requiring four or more people to apply for a permit was unreasonable and that the policy actually favored political speech. Conley ruled that political speech cannot be exalted above any other form.

So judge Conley, an Obama appointee,  struck down  those particular portions of the permit policy and left the rest intact.  I would note at this point that Senator Chris Larson’s statement that he feels the singers should get a permit is, from my understanding, entirely in line with Conley’s ruling.

A trial is set for January, 2014, in a case challenging the constitutionality of the entire permit policy, brought forth by the  ACLU of Wisconsin on behalf of plaintiff Michael Kissick . It’s worth noting that in his ruling Conley wrote that he found little merit in some of the plaintiff’s more sweeping constitutional claims, which leads me to believe that there’s very little chance Conley will agree with those who claim that the constitution is the only permit the singers need to protest in the capitol.

So my question is, why is there no outcry against Conley? Isn’t he aiding Walker/Huebsch/Erwin in their crackdown on free speech by leaving the  bulk of the permit policy intact? Why no demonstrations on the steps of the federal courthouse?

If I’ve got any of this wrong I’m happy to be corrected. But I do think that any further discussion/debate about this issue should include mention of  Conley’s ruling.

State officials: citations won’t be issued to observers of Solidarity Singalong

This is a victory for anyone who values the First Amendment.

Observers of the Solidarity Singalong won’t be cited, state officials said Wednesday, just hours after police told people in the Capitol rotunda they could be arrested for watching the regular noontime protest.

Capitol Police have been issuing arrest warnings to observers since the first week police started citing singers for failing to get a permit to gather in the Capitol rotunda. The warnings gained greater attention this week when state Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, received one.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said in an email that “observers will not receive citations” in response to a State Journal inquiry about what authority the state had to cite observers. DOA officials declined to discuss why police were warning observers.

Now here’s an idea!

This is a fabulous idea, but I doubt elected Democrats in Wisconsin would/could do it.

Sen. Fitzgerald lets the truth be known about Capitol Police arrests of citizens singing at State Capitol

Via Democurmudgeon:

WSJ: Fitzgerald warns politicians to not get near protesters … Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office sent a note to legislative offices warning staff not to congregate along the balcony during the protests. “If you are in the vicinity of the illegal demonstrations that have been taking place over the noon hour in the rotunda, you will be considered part of the protests and are subject to being ticketed,” the message said.

And this sums up the idiocy of the assertion by Capitol Police officers that anyone in the Capitol who happens to be there simply observe citizens singing is a “participant” along with the singers:

Joe Meiller, a Madison Metro bus driver who brought his two sons to watch the singalong Friday from the balcony, was upset that he was asked to leave by Capitol police.

“We didn’t sing or clap once,” Meiller said. “If I observe a bank robbery nearby, am I a participant because I was nearby?”

There’s a reason the Capitol Police are little more than glorified security guards, and their assertion that anyone caught watching citizens sing in the Capitol is guilty of being a “participant” in said singing is absolutely idiotic.

VIDEO: When a pay raise trumps an oath to uphold the Constitution

Wisconsin State Constitution (Article 1, Section 4) states: 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.

Apparently Wisconsin State Capitol Police officers, who the last time I checked swore an oath to uphold the Wisconsin Constitution, have decided that they’d rather do Chief Dave Erwin’s bidding so they can keep their $4 per hour pay raise rather than upholding the Constitution as they swore they would.

Watch as Capitol Police officers arrest a woman with a child for the crime of singing.

Not content with their arrest of the woman in the video above, Capitol Police also arrested Phil Gerboc, a Franciscan friar, as well as a Lutheran pastor who subsequently suffered a cardiac incident.

This is absolutely shameful, and the glorified security guards who are effecting arrests of retirees, moms, and clergy for nothing more than free speech and assembly ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Federal judge issues injunction against Walker administration Capitol permit requirements

Yesterday federal judge William Conley, the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, issued an order preventing officials in the administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker from “(1) distinguishing based on the content of the speech between “rallies” and other events for permitting purposes inside the Capitol and (2) enforcing the permit requirement for gatherings expected to draw 20 or fewer persons inside the Capitol rotunda itself.”

At issue was the Walker administration’s new rules requiring that any groups that wanted to gather in the State Capitol rotunda to exercise their First Amendment rights to get a permit from the Wisconsin State Capitol Police, which is headed by Chief Dave Erwin, Walker’s hand-picked enforcer. The plaintiff, Michael Kissick, who was assisted by the ACLU and Madison attorney Steven Porter, filed a lawsuit claiming that Kissick’s free speech rights were being infringed upon by the Walker administration policy requiring citizens to obtain permits to express their views inside the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda. In issuing an injunction, Judge Conley found that Kissick is likely to prevail on some of his arguments when his case goes to a full trial.

In his decision granting an injunction, Judge Conley also cited the state’s own words from its official nomination of the State Capitol rotunda for designation as a National Historic Landmark, which was granted on January 3, 2001:

The soaring rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol is designed to induce its citizenry to be, as individuals, among the “resources of Wisconsin.” Whereas some statehouses are maintained apart from the urban fabric, the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda functions, both literally and symbolically, as a city center and is fully utilized as a public space to which all have claim.

It’s good to see there are still some judges out there who value free speech.

Chalk-drawing protester prosecuted by Attorney General’s office found guilty, ordered to pay $50 fine

This is absolutely ridiculous.

The first trial since Capitol Police launched a crackdown on protesters at the state Capitol ended Tuesday with a guilty verdict and a $50 fine for a man who was ticketed for drawing with chalk on a sidewalk on Capitol property.

Jason Huberty, 37, a frequent participant in the daily noon-time Solidarity Sing Along at the Capitol, admitted during testimony at a one-day trial that he drew on the sidewalk with colored chalk.

But he said he had made similar creations on the concrete in the presence of other police officers many times before and was never told to stop.

What an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the case was prosecuted by an Assistant Attorney General. That’s a serious waste of man-hours and taxpayer dollars just to capriciously punish someone for exercising their right to free speech.

Pro-gun Rights Activists Petition to Deport Piers Morgan

Another ridiculous petition:

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for British CNN host Piers Morgan to be deported from the U.S. over his gun control views.

A petition created Dec. 21 on the White House e-petition website by a user in Texas accuses Morgan of engaging in a “hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution” by targeting the Second Amendment. It demands he be deported immediately for “exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”

So when did the second amendment become more important that the first amendment?

Police unions issue statement regarding recent enforcement action at the Capitol

From my email inbox comes this statement from the Madison Professional Police Officers Association and Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association regarding the actions of Wisconsin Capitol Police (under the direction of Chief Dave Erwin) to infringe on the First Amendment rights of Wisconsinites in the Capitol.

Date: September 18, 2012
Contact: Brian Austin, MPPOA (608) 347-2773
David McClurg, Vice President, MPPOA (608) 577-2074

Police Unions’ Statement Regarding Recent Enforcement Action at the Capitol

The Madison Professional Police Officers Association and Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association today release the following joint statement:

In February of 2011, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites travelled to our state Capitol in order to have their voices heard. It was truly a remarkable time in Wisconsin’s history, where people from all sides of a political issue came together in one place to peacefully demonstrate. There was an exceptional relationship between the protesters and on-duty law enforcement officers during this time, and Madison saw none of the strife or violence that has touched other protest movements nationwide.

The on-duty officers acted in a truly exemplary manner during the 2011 protests. They were professional and courteous, and performed their duties impartially in order to protect the free speech rights of all parties involved. These officers, from countless jurisdictions across Wisconsin, set an example for the world to follow regarding the role of the police during peaceful citizen protests. Part of the reason they were able to accomplish this was that the leaders of these agencies were extremely sensitive to the free speech rights of all participants, and as such, did not place their officers in positions that would infringe upon those rights.

It is within this context that we have been watching with alarm the recent developments at the Wisconsin State Capitol. In recent weeks, the Department of Administration (DOA) and the leadership within the Capitol Police have commenced enforcement action against peaceful protesters coming to the Capitol. Officers have been ordered to arrest and cite protesters whose only offense is the silent carrying of a sign. Other protesters have been cited for gathering for the “Solidarity Sing-along,” a non-violent group of citizens who sing every day over the noon hour. The Solidarity Singers have been particularly cognizant of the needs of other groups who also want to utilize the Capitol, and frequently relocate outside the Capitol to be respectful of those needs. They are now being cited for assembly at the Capitol without a permit.

The right to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly are two of the fundamental rights upon which our democracy is based. Since the birth of our nation, the courts have taken great pains to protect these rights vigorously, and view any infringement upon these rights with great skepticism. We believe the recent enforcement action at the Capitol clearly violates these rights in a way that should be unacceptable in a free society.

To be perfectly clear, our grievance is not with the officers of the Capitol Police. These officers have performed admirably for over a year and a half under very trying circumstances. We believe that the recent policy change at the Capitol presents a substantial safety risk to the officers who are tasked with its implementation. Simply stated, these officers are being forced into emotionally-charged confrontations that are neither necessary nor advisable.

The Capitol Police officers are also the only participants in this situation who stand to lose their livelihood and ability to support their families. These officers are particularly vulnerable due to the fact that they lost their collective bargaining rights with countless other public employees under Act 10. This statement is as much a statement in support of these officers as it is a statement condemning the policies of the DOA and the leadership of the Capitol Police. These officers are being placed in an impossible position.

We are asking the Department of Administration, the leadership of the Capitol Police, and the Governor’s Office to respect the core values and freedoms upon which this great state and nation were founded, and cease their infringement upon these freedoms. Wisconsin has a rich tradition of open government and free expression of ideas, and we ask that these individuals uphold this tradition in a manner worthy of their positions of public trust. If the current trajectory of these policies continues, we do not believe that history will judge the leaders of this state kindly with respect to the free speech rights of its citizens.