The unrest and growing protests at the Capitol are the result of one man, Chief David Erwin. Things were pretty quiet before his arrival. It seems a few other professionals noticed as well:
In February of 2011, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites
travelled to our state Capitol in order to have their voices heard. It was truly a remarkable time in Wisconsin's
history, where people from all sides of a political issue came together in one
place to peacefully demonstrate. There
was an exceptional relationship between the protesters and on-duty law
enforcement officers during this time, and Madison saw none of the strife or
violence that has touched other protest movements nationwide.
They were professional and courteous, and performed their
duties impartially in order to protect the free speech rights of all parties
involved. These officers, from countless
jurisdictions across Wisconsin, set an example for the world to follow
regarding the role of the police during peaceful citizen protests. Part of the reason they were able to
accomplish this was that the leaders of these agencies were extremely sensitive
to the free speech rights of all participants, and as such, did not place their
officers in positions that would infringe upon those rights.
It is within this context that we have been watching with
alarm the recent developments at the Wisconsin State Capitol. In recent weeks, the Department of
Administration (DOA) and the leadership within the Capitol Police have
commenced enforcement action against peaceful protesters coming to the Capitol.
Officers have been ordered to arrest and cite protesters whose only offense is
the silent carrying of a sign. Other protesters have been cited for gathering
for the "Solidarity Sing-along," a non-violent group of citizens who
sing every day over the noon hour. The
Solidarity Singers have been particularly cognizant of the needs of other
groups who also want to utilize the Capitol, and frequently relocate outside
the Capitol to be respectful of those needs.
They are now being cited for assembly at the Capitol without a permit.
The right to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly
are two of the fundamental rights upon which our democracy is based. We believe
that the recent policy change at the Capitol presents a substantial safety risk
to the officers who are tasked with its implementation. Simply stated, these
officers are being forced into emotionally-charged confrontations that are
neither necessary nor advisable. We are asking the Department of
Administration, the leadership of the Capitol Police, and the Governor's Office
to respect the core values and freedoms upon which this great state and nation
were founded, and cease their infringement upon these freedoms.
Chief Erwin's predictable and clueless response
is a frightening example of how quickly freedom can fade in the hands of the Walker Authority. Here's WKOW coverage:
“It’s unfortunate that these associations would issue a
statement about Capitol Police actions without ever contacting us. Our officers would never judge another police
department’s enforcement without knowing the facts of the situation.
“Everyone has access to the Capitol. Wisconsin has a rich history of freedom of speech,
which is a fundamental right that we uphold.
There are more than five million citizens in the state, and all should
have the same opportunity to voice their views and opinions at our state’s
Capitol. This is not an issue about
saying what you want – it’s about sharing the space at the Capitol and there is
a process to do it.
“Last year was an unprecedented time in our state’s history
and the officers of these departments assisted Capitol Police in keeping the
environment safe for everyone involved.
We know that the officers understand that the crowds are no longer in
the thousands, but a small group who we continue to work with to follow the process
to reserve space for their protests.
“We are sworn to protect and serve the citizens of our state
– as all other police departments in Wisconsin – and we will continue to do
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