In the month of September 2012, the Capitol Police issued 59 citations to 22 citizens for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. The timeline above illustrates what those who come to the Capitol already know: that police enforcement is selective and targeted at specific individuals. While hundreds of people participated in the Solidarity Sing Along and thousands more visited the State Capitol in September, only these 22 citizens were issued citations. And though the sing along met every weekday, as it has since March 11, 2011, only eight days were targeted for enforcement. Read WCMC articles about these arrests here, here, and here.
The timeline above shows photos of the people cited within frames color coded to the citation type. Citations were issued under the Wisconsin Administrative Code for 2.07(2) unlawful display of sign, 2.08(1) holding signs over railings – prohibited, 2.14(2)(k) disorderly conduct, and 2.14(2)(v) obstruct access passage etc. and under the Wisconsin State Statutes for 946.41 obstructing. The Capitol Police began a new tactic in September of issuing two citations per person. One officer made an analogy to traffic stops, saying police issue two tickets, knowing one will get thrown out in court. What the police don’t say is that the increased financial impact of multiple tickets is part of the campaign of intimidation and harassment.
The dates for which citations were issued are shown in black. The areas of the red circles are scaled to the number of arrests on that day. The impact of the sheer number of citations was lessened by a slow trickling of tickets delivered to people’s homes, places of work, and sent by certified (or in one case non-certified) mail. It took up to two weeks for citizens to receive their citations. Many of them were not warned they would be cited while at the Capitol and had no contact with the police while in the building. This has led to a chilling effect on free speech and assembly where some people are choosing to stay away from the Capitol until the conditions under which citations are issued are clarified.
Prior to September, a peace activist writing with chalk on a public sidewalk became the first person issued a ticket under the current Capitol crackdown (not shown on timeline). His arrest was ordered by none other than Erwin himself. In October, three citations have been issued (also not shown on timeline) to date but the uncertainty of dozens more arriving in people’s mailboxes keeps a tense atmosphere at the Capitol between citizens and police. This brings the total to 25 people and 63 citations since David Erwin became the Chief of Capitol Police. In media interviews, Erwin has promised to continue issuing citations until the participants of the Solidarity Sing Along get a permit. The financial impact of defending multiple citations in court has not dissuaded these citizens but has hardened their resolve to continue exercising the rights to peaceably assemble, consult for the common good, and petition the government or any department thereof.