By Whitney Steffen, Leslie Amsterdam and Arthur Kohl-Riggs
Above is a video of another unconstitutional arrest. However, this is more proof of the continued unprofessional behavior of the Capitol Police and Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms’ staff when it comes to rights, people’s property, and their safety.
The Wisconsin State Assembly has its own set of rules. Assembly Rule 26, which covers the conduct in the chamber, is constantly broken on the floor. Members read newspapers. They eat. They use cell phones. There is also a claim that Rule 26 states that cameras and filming are not allowed in the gallery. This is blatantly false, but the Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms’ staff and the Capitol Police choose to ignore that fact.
Last night, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, who runs a Facebook Page called ‘Shit Scott Walker is Doing to my State,’ was arrested for having a camera in the gallery. He’s perhaps best known as the person who shot the video which caused Keith Olbermann to crown Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) The Worst Person in the World.
Yesterday, they put black plastic bags on the glass of the swinging doors to block the view of the floor. The irony is probably lost on all of those who put those cheap garbage bags up, but it is Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week is “a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” (Source.)
When Arthur walked in with his camera on its mono-pod, the page asked him to leave. The camera was not turned on or filming. He refused to leave because there was no reason for him to go. The page called over Capitol Police Officer Bob Sloey. Sloey grabbed Arthur before asking him to exit the gallery.
After a heated exchange in the hall in which Capitol Police Officer Jeff Calhoun joined in the conversation, Arthur stuffed the camera under his sweater because they told him to put it away. He had no bag to put it in and did not wish to leave it outside the gallery unattended. His camera now hidden, he reentered the gallery. He sat down, wishing to watch his government at work. The page and Capitol Police told him he was not allowed to return because he had been asked to leave once. When asked to leave again, he refused, just as he had the first time.
Soon, no fewer than four Capitol Police officers appeared. The sergeant on duty spoke with him, repeating the request which would deny him his rights. After saying he wouldn’t, Capitol Police Officer Geoffrey McLendon asked Arthur to stand up and leave. Otherwise, he would have to carry him. Arthur stood as McLendon guided him up. He stepped over the seats and was led out.
In the gallery, all of this was impossible to ignore. From the floor, it was easy to miss. Nicole Schulte, who was covering the session from the floor last night, wrote of the event,
“The existence of Mr. Kohl Riggs’ concealed camera in the gallery was in no way disruptive to the proceedings on the Assembly floor. His camera didn’t squawk, it didn’t get up and walk around, it wasn’t inebriated and it didn’t hold a sign. It did, in fact, maintain a high level of decorum.”
When they took Arthur out of the gallery, the cameras immediately turned on. The whole of the event was caught from multiple angles, one of which is included in the video. Some audio from the actual arrest surfaced as well. Note that there are two times the Capitol Police use force: once at 5:35, where Arthur is shoved into a door frame as he tries to hear what the Capitol Police are saying to him, and the second time at just before 7:00 when they shove him into the elevator door because it didn’t come fast enough for their liking. He was also trying to call the City of Madison Police to help him.
And though there is a made-up rule that cameras are not allowed, Representative Robin Vos stated that they are – but there are limits on using them.
“Vos said he did not see a contradiction in allowing guns in the galleries while banning the use of cameras. He said people could bring both guns and cameras into the galleries, but couldn’t use either.” (Source.)
If you’d like to contact the Capitol Police about this story, here are some emails:
Charles Tubbs (Chief of Police):
Phone number for the Capitol police:
Contact information for the members of the Assembly Rules Committee, who approve the rules for each session:
Representative Suder (Chair) – Rep.Suder@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 267-0280 or (888) 534-0069
Representative Fitzgerald (Vice-Chair) – Rep.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-2540
Representative Kramer – Rep.Kramer@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-8580
Representative Knodl – Rep.Knodl@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-3796 or (888) 529-0024
Representative Ballweg - Rep.Ballweg@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-8077 or (888) 534-0041
Representative Murtha - Rep.Murtha@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-7683
Representative Williams – Rep.WilliamsM@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-7506
Representative Barca – Rep.Barca@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-5504 or (888) 534-0064
Representative Pasch – Rep.Pasch@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-7671 or (888) 534-0022
Representative Clark – Rep.Clark@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-7746 or (888) 534-0042
Representative Bernard Schaber – Rep.BernardSchaber@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 282-3657
Representative Turner – Rep.Turner@legis.wisconsin.gov; (608) 266-0731 or (888) 529-0061