Free speech? Not in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

Apparently the first amendment right to free speech has limits in Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.

Watch as the parents of two children who brought signs to the Wisconsin Capitol are issued citations by a Wisconsin State Capitol police officer for holding up signs outside the Capitol’s designated “protest area.”

Scott Walker and Mike Huebsch ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Editor’s Note: The post has been edited to reflect the fact that the parents, not the children, were issued the citations.


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33 thoughts on “Free speech? Not in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

    1. Don’t divert the subject, I know you conservatives are good at that. The issue here is that they are standing quietly, not in anyone’s way, not endangering anyone so the officer shouldn’t be allowed to do this.

      A state house is absolutely a public space. I don’t understand the special privileges hate groups the WBC can get when they’re deliberately upsetting and harassing people where as these people who get citations are being demonized for standing there in silence holding a sign.

    2. So wait…..I go to the Capitol, and I bring my daughter, who happens to bring with her a sign she made because she wants to express her thoughts on this situation, and somehow I’m using her as a prop?

      1. Only if you purposely go to an area (with cameras rolling and a lawyer on stand-by) that you know the cops are going to ask your daughter to move to another area. And then, instead of intervening (like a responsible parent), you stand there continuing to record the event on your camera and let your daughter remain in an awkward situation with an officer.

        To T.: pointing out that this person is a staff person to a Democrat Senator is not diverting. It is very relevant, because he knew exactly what he was doing. This whole incident was a setup and he disgustingly used his kids to do it. If he wanted to make a point, why wasn’t he the one holding the sign or at least have the cops talk to him. “SHAME” on him.

      2. I wish someone would have asked those kids what they are even protesting. I don’t they, or many of the protestors, even know what collective bargaining is or the implications of this bill.

  1. I was just thinking this morning, that we need to not use children in all protests. Before anyone gets angry, let me remind you that not using children in all protest would apply to all political sides, including the ones you don’t agree with. I just think it’s low-bow, could endanger them if one side seriously flips out, and really, the children could be doing something else other than being used as tools such as talking at school, getting involved there and so on. That is what bothered me when Walker said that he thought about placing ‘trouble makers’ in the crowds with the suggestion of Carlos Lam putting a false flag operation to hurt the governor and possibly others.

    Either way It just comes off as the parents trying to make observers go “ooh look at that little kid and how politically motivated they are” when really the kid’s probably just parroting whatever he or she grew up with in his or her household or around them. Just look at the Westboro Baptist Church for instance — a lot of those little kids don’t realize what they’re saying when say say “Thank God for soldiers being killed” or “Thank god for the shooting at Tucson!”

    Rant over. I think the ‘free speech zone’ is bullshit – if Westboro Bapist Church can protest at a funeral while shouting and screaming the entire time harassing loved ones of the victim, the people in the Capitol have a right to stand there with a sign silently. A citizen have the right to protest before and even within the house of their governments, so long as they don’t endanger anyone or hamper the proceedings. (by shouting over the assembly, for example.)

    I will say this though, that as much as I may disagree with what he was enforcing, I approve of the way the officer handled himself.

  2. I brought my kids with me many times to the capitol to protest, and they walked around with signs the whole time. I did not use them as a prop I used it as a teachable moment showing them how democracy works!

    While the officer handled himself well, I would say that he acted unprofessionally by issuing a ticket that he knows to be unconstitutional. I feel bad that the capitol police are being used as pawns by hack huebsch, and they are really in an untenable position but its obvious this “rule” has no more legal standing that you cant wear a yellow shirt on tuesdays….

  3. When I was growing up in the 60s, I learned next to nothing about politics, how government works, what rights I was guaranteed by the Constitution, etc. We were raised to believe “My country, right or wrong.” This kind of brainwashing is exactly how Hitler was able to take control of the German people.

    Whatever the motivation of the parents, these two young men definitely gained a valuable civics lesson, put their rights to free speech to use, and had practice in developing a sense of self-worth and righteousness.

    I agree that the officer handled himself professionally, but so did the parents.

    1. I agree with that as well: I’m impressed with how both sides handled themselves: I feel terrible for the fact the capitol police are used as pawns.

      This is just my personal opinion on the subject when it comes to bringing children to protest: As long as there is no law against it, you can continue doing it even if it unnerves me. I mean, for crying outloud in 3rd grade I had no idea what politics were, I believed in all the right wing talking points, and voted for Republicans in school because I felt it wasn’t ‘fair’ that they weren’t getting enough votes and I liked the color red. I actually didn’t comprehend politics until 5th grade.

      However I don’t like it when people compare what is going on in Wisconsin to fascism, I have definitely been one of the people who have constantly jumped up and said “this is not the same.” but honestly? Ever since the demonizing against Professor Cronon, a man I look up to? I’m not sure anymore if I am willing to jump up and say they’re not like fascism anymore.

      1. I’m with you on the kids thing, T. While people certainly have a right to involve their kids, it’s just plain creepy to use them as pawns – to carry a political punch. Right, left or other, that sort of thing reeks of indoctrination to me and is just plain creepy.

        I’ve not commented on the Cronon stuff because I’ve only read a very little bit on it – given that, I probably shouldn’t say anything yet, but at least as far as I’ve seen, it sure seems…crappy. But then, as per my rant in the open thread the other day – slimy, shameless behavior from both the major parties in this state seems to be very much par for the course.

        1. It’s just a personal preference of mine, people can choose to do it if they want – it just bothers me that some people use their children that way. I know that is not the intentions of many people, but it’s one of my personal feelings on the subject and I can’t exactly stop them as long as they’re not abusing them.

          If you’re curious what got the Republicans up in arms, here is the blog post that got the Wisconsin GOP up in arms. I trust his word, because he was aware of the professional limits placed on equipment and his computer account at UW Madison so by keeping his activities separate he has protected himself.

          I think the reason why he was so defensive as he was is simply because he couldn’t trust the Wisconsin GOP – they say they’re going to do one thing but there is too many shifty things going on. From the sound of it, he’s afraid of his students or third parties may be dragged into this situation. Given while it is considered illegal in that sense, I don’t think the GOP no longer cares about things being legal by any means. I heard that UW-Madison is complying with the said request, but I have to check up on that. As I said, it’s getting harder for me to defend the Republicans when I hear the word ‘fascist’ tossed around. I have been a person who has been repeatedly telling others not to use that, but this incident? Is making me not want to jump in and stop this anymore.

      2. I agree with you….I don’t want anyone to assume I’m denigrating Capitol Police, because I think they – along with the other law enforcement officers who handled Capitol security during the protests – were and continue to be put in a difficult position.

        As for parents involving their children in protests, I’ll just say that I would have taken my stepdaughter to one of the rallies had she been physically able to go, because whether you agree with Scott Walker or you agree with the protesters, I think we can all agree the protests in Madison were historic, and I would have liked for her to witness things first hand.

        1. HISTORIC? OH PLEASE. We had a couple of weekends were a large number of malcontents showed up banged drums chanted and acted like spoiled children because someone had the balls to tell them its time to grow up.

          SO they all got together yelled and scream and the bill still became law. This little stunt by unions and out of state agitators will soon just become a footnote in the news and a forgotten memory in history. It will be remembered for a few years as a union rallying cry but like most union stunts it will soon be forgotten even by them as fewer and fewer people will care.

          If there is anything historic about it, it will be that unions learned that they no longer are going to bully taxpayers.

          1. Of course you’d fail to see the significance of hundreds of thousands of citizens coming together to have their voices heard.

  4. Another staged event that only makes them look more sad and pathetic. Drag your kids and pretend you are protesting in hopes you can really just make a political statement. They have no shame and to use kids as props is even more disgusting.

  5. Zach, you really think this is a violation of free speech? There have always been designated protest areas, in and out of public buildings. I know it’s been a free-for-all lately in Madison where no one needs to follow any rules they don’t like, but what is the harm in this rule?

    These officers didn’t say these people couldn’t have signs, they said you need to move to the ground floor. I could see the point if the “protest area” was some obscure hearing room that no one could see, but this is the ground floor of the capitol, where everyone can see you. So the protesting wasn’t allowed on this particular floor, maybe so that some business can still be conducted there?!

    If this is a violation of free speech, then a person should be able to do anything in the name of free speech. If you want to hold a sign in the Capitol at 3am but the building closes earlier, is that a violation of free speech? What I want to hold a protest sign in the middle of street, even though I am allowed to do so on the sidewalk? If I go to Washington, they should let me hold a protest sign in the Oval Office if I want to, right? No, they won’t? Violation of free speech!

    Your lack of common sense here is what is appalling, but not as appalling as using your kids to prove some point that you can protest on the second floor instead of the first. Ridiculous!

      1. Sorry I didn’t see that statement as all that offensive. I am a little astounded that is the only thing you chose to reply to. But yes, I do believe it is lacking in common sense to see this as a true infrigement of free speech.

          1. I read the whole thread. I meant that you didn’t respond to anything in my post (from 9:22p) except the part about common sense. You consider that name calling? I don’t recall seeing any signs saying “Scott Walker lacks common sense.” If there were any, I would consider them to be civil. What I saw was far worse.

            I didn’t mean to be name-calling if that’s how you took it. What I meant to say was that I just can’t see a valid argument for free speech infringement based on this incident. I think it was manufactured to make some sort of point, when there really isn’t a point to be had.

            1. Yeah, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with limiting speech….absolutely nothing at all!

              This incident may very well have been manufactured – I don’t know for sure whether it was or wasn’t – but I take issue with the argument that free speech can and should be limited by fiat simply because one doesn’t agree with what’s being said.

              These “free speeech zones” or whatever they’re called that have been implemented by Gov. Walker’s administration are nothing more than an attempt to limit the ability of those who disagree with his politics and policies to express their opinions.

              1. If that’s how you feel, then answer my questions. Is it a “free speech zone” to only be allowed to protest outside the White House in certain areas, or should I be allowed to hold my protest in the Oval Office. It is a public building.

                I can hold a sign in the middle of the public street, rather than a sidewalk if I feel like it, right?

                If a public building closes at 6pm, but I want to hold a sign up at 10pm, they have to let me do it in the name of free speech, right?

                Like I said, if the attempt to “limit free speech” meant that they could only protest a mile away or limited to a small hearing room, I could see your point. But they are allowed to protest anywhere outside and the entire ground floor of the rotunda!!!

                  1. Now who is diverting the subject? Okay if you want to be that way… so say if I just want to stand in the hallway outside the Oval Office. Violation of free speech?

                    1. I’m not diverting; I’m simply pointing out that these protesters were protesting in a public place, not inside the Governor’s office, which I’d argue is not a “public place.” Having read my post from 9:49 p.m. I see I didn’t make it clear that I’m referring strictly to limiting free speech in public places, and I think you and I will agree that the Oval Office, the governor’s office, etc. are not “public places,” whereas the rotunda of the state Capitol is very clearly a public place.

    1. This is absolutely 100% a violation of free speech. This is a common area and clearly public and a place allowed to carry a sign: Solidarity forever! This is only against the rules because Hack Huebsch made it against the rules. What if he makes it against the rules to refer to the first day of the week as Monday does that make it so? Hell no. Refer to Zach’s earlier posting where Ben Masel walked all around the capitol with his sign “this is a test of the emergency free speech system”. He was not ticketed, nor should he have been.

      Your examples make no sense. Can they protest in the oval office no, has anyone walked into Scott Walkers office to protest? NO As for after hours, the judge made it perfectly clear that when there are open hours, or there are hearings going on, the people have unlimited access to the capitol. Of course that didnt stop Hack Huebsch from making his own rules again, even though the people have abided by the judge’s orders the Walker Administration has yet to do so. Just a quick aside, the people slept overnight at first because there were hearings going on 24/7 and if the hearing would have stopped the capitol would have closed.

      Can you hold a sign up in the middle of the street? sure you can it just would not be very smart. The people who the walker regime have taken the rights from are pretty smart people and prefer to do it on the sidewalk. That being said there were some saturdays where we walked the streets around the capitol. A 150,000 people can do that!

      I also took my 4 year old and my 8 year old to the capitol. One night we went there right after school was over and he brought his homework and sat and did it at our “designated spot” on the first floor.

      I dont want to disparage the Capitol Police either, I think they and Chief Tubbs have done an awesome job the last 6 weeks. I just think they are being used as pawns by the republicans.

      1. Jeff, but my point is that there are other limits on free speech. If the building closes at 6pm, you are limited in your free speech until the next day. If someone wanted to hold a sign on the very top of the dome, should he be allowed to do it?

        Also, I don’t understand of bringing your child to the capitol just to do his homework. Seems like a dumb idea to me, and beside the point, but you are FREE to do so. Isn’t America great?

  6. The judge basically said if the building closes at 6pm there will be no one there to protest to, so there is no point in protesting. That makes sense to me.

    There are limits to free speech, and unfortunately there are more and more everyday and we need to be very very careful about what we limit and what we don’t. We need to err on the side of democracy. What is the difference between the first floor and the ground floor? maybe because the first floor is where walkers office is and he does not want to see protesters? There is absolutely no reason and no law that would allow for signs to not be carried on the first floor rotunda. We will see how the ticket/court date plays out, but I have a feeling that they wont pay a nickel. I know the Sargent family had numerous lawyers willing to help pro-bono. This appears to be a lay-up for them.

    As for my kids because, contrary to what nota says, this was an historic event. The protests in Madison struck a nerve around the world and we were at the eye of the storm for weeks(still are really). That and this taking of rights and money directly effects our family. I teach my kids that democracy is not a spectator sport and there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. We needed to spend as much time at the capitol as we could and that meant picking up the kids and heading back down there. As a matter of fact we had plans for him to stay overnight there one night with my wife, but he got sick and was unable too(much to his disappointment).

    1. So if there is no point to protesting (as you see it), then free speech doesn’t apply. Got it. I don’t think so, Jeff. The question is whether I WANT to or not. If you think someone should be allowed to protest on the second floor because they want to, then I should be allowed to protest at 10pm (even if the rule says the building is closed) if I WANT to, whether you think it makes sense or not. Because quite frankly I could say to you that I don’t think any or all of that protesting makes sense to me.

      I do applaud you for showing your kids to be involved as citizens. I hope that also means taking the kids to vote, paying your taxes, etc. With that said, I never saw the point of staying overnight. You can’t protest while you are alseep!

    2. Good lord paying your fair share is NOT taking money from you but what is expected of adults when they grow up. Being responsible for your health care and retirement is not taking money away from but you paying for you basic needs, it is amazing that union people have such an entitlement mentality no wonder they fit so well in the democrat party instead of the real world.

  7. I think we might have discussed this before, ever since my kids were born they have come with me to vote every single time. EVEN when i carried them in their car seat carrier and they were months olds. I did not take them ever to pay taxes but will from now on(I do think it was you who gave me that idea).

    As for why the slept over I told you. Originally the republicans stopped hearing public testimony after the first day. They walked out and said they were not going to listen anymore, despite the fact that there were hundreds of people waiting in line. The dems then kept the room open and were taking testimony 24/7 which is what kept the capitol open at the time. With people being there for so long overnight it turned into a progression of actually sleeping there. EVerytime for the first two weeks we were there, we tried to give testimony but the lines were too long. And WHILE the people were giving testimony, there were some democrats there listening. That’s how the overnights started.

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