Wisconsin’s pay-for-protest is all sound and fury

Wisconsin's pay-for-protest is all sound and fury
Wisconsin's pay-for-protest is all sound and fury
Mike DeVries/The Capital Times
On December 1, embattled, union-busting Governor Scott Walker unveiled a policy that would charge fees to protest groups numbering four or more at the state capitol in Madison – fees for extra police, and for cleanup and repairs.  Those are fees which opponents argue are in direct violation of the state constitution. Article I, Section 4:

“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

Last week – shortly before it was to take effect – Governor Walker loosened his policy, allowing for some interesting exceptions:

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration on Friday revised its policy covering gatherings at the state Capitol, making clear that families and lobbyists in groups of four or more would not have to get a permit when in the building and stressing that non-compliance would not automatically lead to arrests.

(Insert snark about a group of four or more lobbyists being exempted from arrest by Governor Walker here.) The revised policy went into full effect yesterday, but the Governor’s office assured the public that no arrests would be made. There weren’t any yesterday:

Some 250 to 300 people showed up at noon Monday without a permit to sing at the daily Solidarity Sing-along in the Capitol rotunda. (The state DOA did not respond to a request for an official crowd estimate Monday.)

“The fact that they aren’t enforcing the policy tells me they know the policy is unconstitutional,” says Nicole Schulte of Madison, a regular attendee of the Solidarity Sing-along. “It seems obvious to me that they (the Walker administration) want to put people in a position to challenge the policy in court.”

Still, what happened yesterday is not necessarily indicative of what will happen in the future. It seems that the ACLU of Wisconsin had working with the administration, seeking assurances that the policy not be enforced until after New Year’s Day. The bit about charging for extra security has already been amended – but if the new policy is not wholly scrapped or changed further, the ACLU plans to file a lawsuit.

One lobbyist (!) is on their side:

Tom Krajewski, who worked for decades as a lobbyist for corporations, nonprofits and government entities, says he participated in Monday’s sing-along to protest the exemption of lobbyists.

“These citizens are lobbyists. They are petitioning their government for a common good,” Krajewski says. “As a former lobbyist, I find it offensive that four hired guns have more rights than four of these people do.”

Video from the Solidarity Singers’ protest can be found here, and embedded after the jump. Hat tip to TPM’s Eric Kleefeld and Wisconsin Radio Network.


Wisconsin's pay-for-protest is all sound and fury