By Rebecca Kemble, Whitney Steffen, Nicole Schulte and Leslie Amsterdam
The Capitol police crackdown on free speech continued today as two more people were arrested leaving the building after a spontaneous gathering in the rotunda.
Dawn Henke, a disabled veteran from Phoenix, Arizona, who currently resides in Wausau, was walking out of the Capitol when she was told that she was under arrest for a vaguely described violation of the Wisconsin administrative code. She was not holding any signs or other prohibited objects. The only thing in her hand was a single song book from the Solidarity Sing Along.
Henke suffers from a heart ailment and began to feel faint, so she backed up against the wall. After she was handcuffed, she lost strength and slumped to the floor.
At that time Ted Voth, Jr. tried to come to her aid but was pushed back by police officers. He was arrested for violation of administrative code 2.14(2)(k), “disorderly conduct,” and Wis. Stats. 946.41, “obstruct/resist.” Voth was handcuffed and taken to the Capitol basement, and later taken to the Dane County jail. He was released on bail later in the afternoon and has a court appearance on October 22.
Voth said this of his experience: “I was leaving the Capitol with a group of people. They were giving someone the bum’s rush as if to arrest her. It was like the wolves were cutting the weaker ones from the herd and they were going after her. I felt, they just can’t do that! I moved toward her to protect her and the police warned me back. I did not back off so they arrested me.”
Other onlookers expressing concern for Henke were physically pushed by Capitol police officers and were told to keep their distance.
Henke remained seated on the floor for nearly fifteen minutes before an ambulance arrived. Before she lost consciousness, Henke was able to inform her arresting officer of the location of her nitroglycerine pills, which he then administered to her while still handcuffed slumped on the floor.
Henke was taken to the VA hospital, treated and released in stable condition. A Capitol Police officer followed the ambulance to the hospital and told her she was “unarrested.” After her release Henke said, “I really just want to know what that was all about and what they were arresting me for.” She plans to investigate.
Defenders of free speech have been under attack at the Capitol for the past two weeks. Today’s arrests bring the two-week total to twenty-three.
The noon hour Solidarity Sing Along was held outdoors on the Capitol lawn today. Though some participants feared that Capitol Police might attempt to break up the gathering for violating an administrative rule that says gatherings of 100 or more people on the Capitol grounds require a permit, no enforcement action was taken by the Capitol police.
After the Sing Along ended, a few people went inside the Capitol to express their opposition to the policies of Governor Scott Walker and their defense of their constitutionally protected rights to free speech. Some took turns standing on the rotunda floor reading the text of constitutionally questionable administrative rules published by the Department of Administration late last year, while others marched in a circle, repeating random words they heard the speaker say.
“Where’s page six? Where’s page six?” and “Equal rights for equal numbers! Equal rights for even numbers!” were some of the chants that rang throughout the building. A large group of school kids from the Gear Up program were visiting and joined in the fun.
Dawn Henke was amongst the crowd in the rotunda. She made a speech expressing her dismay at being referred to as a terrorist by Capitol Police Chief Erwin earlier in the week:
Reflecting on the crackdown on free speech in recent weeks, Ted Voth said, “I don’t think Chief Erwin or Scott Walker have any concept of what the constitution means.” He added, “I tremble for democracy.”