February 27, 2015 by Michael Matheson
During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stated, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.” The remark was made in reference to America’s response to the terrorist group ISIS, who has conducted a series of brutal beheadings over the past several months. Questioned about the statement later, Walker said, “Let me be perfectly clear: I’m just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling this difficult situation is the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with.”
Protests against Governor Walker’s introduction of Act 10, which all but eliminated the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin public workers, began on February 14, 2011 and grew in number during the course of the next several weeks. The protests led to crowds in excess of 100,000. The Madison Police Department was quick to note the peaceful nature of these protests and repeatedly issued press releases thanking protesters for their civility in the course of exercising First Amendment rights.
On February 18, 2011, MPD Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain stated, “The MPD continues to commend the behavior of those who have gathered to peacefully protest,” noting that no arrests had been made during the course of the week. The following day’s press release again noted that no arrests had occurred: “On behalf of all the law enforcement agencies that helped keep the peace on the Capitol Square Saturday, a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights. You conducted yourselves with great decorum and civility, and if the eyes of the nation were upon Wisconsin, then you have shown how democracy can flourish even amongst those who passionately disagree.” As the protests grew in size, again and again, the Madison Police Department acknowledged the peaceful and civil nature of the large crowds that gathered on the Capitol Square.
The largest protest occurred on Saturday, March 12, 2011, when well over 100,000 people descended upon the Capitol Square. In the midst of one of the largest political protests in the history of the United States, not a single arrest occurred.
As Governor Scott Walker prepares for his race for the presidency, he may well boast of debilitating the public unions in the State of Wisconsin. He would be wise to refrain from equating the citizens of his state with the challenges of terrorism.