Statement from National Lawyer Guild attorneys on recent Wisconsin Capitol Police brutality, racial profiling

What follows is a statement from the National Lawyers Guild, Madison, Wisconsin Chapter:

August 28, 2013
National Lawyers Guild Madison Chapter
Contact Patricia K. Hammel 608-279-4136

Attorneys Representing Capitol Dissidents Deplore Capitol Police Brutality and Racial Profiling

Two well publicized arrests of African Americans at the Solidarity Sing Along August 26 in the Wisconsin State Capitol showed Capitol Police officers using excessive force and pain compliance techniques. Christopher (C.J.) Terrell’s arms were wrenched behind him and police applied to pressure to the front and side of his neck to immobilize him, after he sat down during his arrest, then he was dragged out with arms pinned behind him. Six officers tackled Damon Terrell, pinned him to the marble rotunda floor, twisted his wrist, and carried him out in a prone position face down; he was later charged with felony assault of an officer although he appears to be the victim. On August 21 a young woman was arrested using pain compliance as well.

Attorney Jeff Scott Olson, who represents some of the cited activists, said, “Efforts to seek injunctive relief in court against these unlawful police tactics have been contemplated for some time, but have been on the back burner awaiting developments on other fronts. It’s pretty clear we have to put them on the front burner now, before someone gets seriously hurt.”

Observers have noted that the only disturbance or threat to the public safety at the daily Sing Along occurs when Capitol Police emerge to arrest participants. Many participants and spectators were shocked by the degree of physical force used by four to six officers against the Terrells Tuesday and Emily Hoppe last Wednesday. All have been present at recent noontime Sing Alongs along with renewed attendance by union members, teachers, police and fire fighters.

According to attorneys who represent many of the more than 140 people arrested since July 24, the defendants have generally been polite and cooperative, and use of handcuffs and physical force has been far out of proportion to what police need to issue a civil forfeiture ticket. Most people arrested have been charged with participating in an “unlawful assembly” under the Wisconsin Administrative Code, which is not a crime and carries a maximum fine of $500.00. However an increasingly younger and more diverse crowd has turned up the volume and energy of the two and a half year old singing event in response to the July and August “crackdown.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was taped during a fake phone call from “David Koch” in February 2011considering planting provocateurs to instigate violence to discredit opponents during the protests that gave rise to the Sing Along. Activists now speculate that the Capitol Police use of force in arrests may be a deliberate attempt to provoke a violent reaction for a public disturbed by the sight of mass arrests for peaceful protests.

Video of the events, showing excessive use of force by police officers, is available HERE.


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