Wis. Legislators Observing Arrests in Capitol Rotunda Warned by Police

1085072_660059164023620_739245275_oAugust 8, 2013  by Leslie Amsterdam

Several Wisconsin legislators have been warned by Capitol Police recently that they should not be observing the arrests and other activities currently happening in the Capitol rotunda daily over the noon hour, as Solidarity Sing Along participants continue to sing out their disapproval of Gov. Scott Walker and his policies each weekday from 12 to 1 p.m.

Many state elected officials have been sympathetic to the song circle and have joined in on occasion to voice support. Others have issued press releases and written letters to DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch urging him to respect citizen’s right to petition their government.

The latest Capitol crackdown on dissent began late last month with daily declarations of an “unlawful event,” which requires “participants” and spectators to disperse or risk arrest.  Observers, including tourists and other visitors to the Capitol, are warned daily about the danger of remaining in their statehouse while the arrests are happening. Tuesday, Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) was warned to stop observing the scene as she watched arrests from a balcony outside her office.

Wednesday,  Reps. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison) stood their ground when asked to move away from Capitol Police arresting a citizen sitting peacefully on the floor.


When asked to comment, Sargent said, “I’m deeply concerned about the DOA procedures that are being implemented by the Capitol Police. The escalation is felt in the air.”   On her Facebook page, Berceau commented, “I decided to go to the Solidarity Sing-a-long to see what behavior generated arrests. None. Behavior issues, that is. Here’s how it’s working; the Capitol Police have people on the floor above the rotunda with ear buds. Someone is communicating something to them. Then suddenly you’ll see 3 or more cops move in and randomly, it seems, select someone and immediately handcuff them. Not hand them a citation…handcuff them.  A guy standing next to me, not singing, was just suddenly arrested. I asked the officer … guy I know and like … why [the man] was being arrested. His answer, “because he chose to be.” I asked again, and got the same answer. I asked if he’d like to arrest me and his answer was, ‘No, I do not want to arrest you.’ Note … he didn’t say he WOULDN’T.”

To donate to the First Amendment Protection Fund to help citizens defray legal costs associated with First Amendment activities at the Capitol, visit: http://solidaritysingalong.org/

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One Comment on “Wis. Legislators Observing Arrests in Capitol Rotunda Warned by Police”

  1. Anne Albrecht August 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Having watched the video, I’d like to add a comment for your consideration. I did about 25 years in law enforcement both in the Maryland/DC area and in the international arena and believe that the choices made by the Capitol Police to arrest people for non-violent protest are totally in error. I believe every citizen has the right to peaceful protest.

    While I totally disagree with the decision made by Capitol Police to make arrests in this instance, one that decision is made, you, as an official don’t have a “right” to interfere in that arrest.

    I policed in some of the worst high crime areas of Maryland and DC and I would have arrested you without a second thought for your insistence on interfering in that officer’s arrest. You were asked, politely, multiple times, to move and you should have done so.

    You can watch without creating a roadblock. No, you offered no violence, but once the officer made the choice to arrest, you needed to get out of the way and let them do their job. If you think what you are doing is helping, guess again. Bring suit in court, make changes in law, sanction investigations into the legality of these actions…do what Representatives do, but remember the police department isn’t at fault here, it’s the fault of those directing the police. I would like to see legal challenges here, that would force those directing the police from behaving like spoiled children.

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