By Jason Huberty, February 26, 2015
As Republicans rushed through a so-called “Right to Work” bill in the Wisconsin State Senate on Wednesday, some people were removed from the galleries for outbursts but not arrested, while at least two people were taken to an off-site Department of Administration processing facility and made to find their own way back to the State Capitol over a mile away in a bitter snowstorm.
Due to a fear of protesters assembling in front of the Senate entrance, Capitol Police used velvet ropes to block off an area normally open to public access. When some people exited through elevators inside of the roped-off area, police told them to go behind the ropes where other people had assembled. If they didn’t move fast enough, they were promptly arrested.
Kelley Dee Albrecht, the Democratic opponent of GOP Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos in the 2012 election, was one such person. Kelley provided an account of her arrest to WCMC.
“I was trying to make my way around all the police ‘barricades’ kettling the people around the building. I came off the elevator of the second floor to a bunch of Capitol Police officers and troopers. I saw a friend and gave them a hug.”
“A Capitol Police officer instructed me to ‘go over there’ and pointed to my fellow citizens quarantined off by stanchions. I was actually looking for a bathroom. I complied with the order and moved over to the stanchions. There were a lot of people I knew there.”
“I was talking with a state trooper posted by the stanchion when the same Capitol Police officer came and told me ‘Now move over THERE’ and pointed to an area behind the people.”
“I said ‘This is enough! I complied with your order despite the fact that I wasn’t coming this way to begin with. This is our house and we have the right to know what is going on on the floor of our house. You don’t have the right to tell me to keep moving around.'”
“He left. I continued my conversation with the state trooper. Suddenly I felt an officer grab my arms and place me under arrest. They took me downstairs through the old cafeteria and back into the Capitol Police office area.”
“I asked ‘On what charge am I under arrest?’ A Capitol Police officer replied, ‘I don’t know.’ I never got an answer. I later learned I was being taken out of the Capitol.”
According to Kelley, she was loaded onto a “short bus” without police markings. Handcuffed with plastic zip ties, she rode in the bus with another arrestee, Irving Smith. A State Patrol officer drove while another trooper and a DNR conservation warden rode with the arrestees in the back. Kelley continues her account:
“I was taken to the DOA facility at 201 S. Dickinson St. I still had no idea where I was, or on whose authority. It was a makeshift processing area. The first room is where they put my personal things and searched me again.”
The DOA building on Dickinson formerly housed a vehicle fleet that has since been moved to a new facility on the south side. This is the same location the DOA used to count the recall petition signatures in 2012. Kelley’s account continues:
“Then we went into a bigger room with a bunch of folding chairs and table with a laptop where the State Patrol officer processed us. I was handcuffed the entire time in chairs that forced your shoulders forward, making it very uncomfortable.”
“After being processed, without having my picture or fingerprints taken, just their entering my information into a laptop, I was told that I was not being charged.”
“I was given my personal belongings, which were never bagged or accounted for, and walked out of the building through a back parking lot and a big sliding gate. I felt like I was being let out of a detention camp.”
“I asked if we were getting a ride back to the Capitol or if they were calling us a cab. They said no. The police walked us out to the gate across a parking lot in the snow. Irving had no coat.”
“We went to a nearby bar and got a cab, but the cab didn’t come for a half hour while we waited. So we canceled the cab and took a bus back to the Capitol.”
This is the first account of Capitol arrestees being taken by to an off-site DOA processing facility. For people less familiar with Madison like Kelley is, being abandoned after being released without charges adds to the trauma of arrest.
This marks an even more dangerous tactic that could have harmed the safety and well-being of citizens who must find their way back to the Capitol. In yesterday’s snow and blustery cold, that tactic could have been lethal.