Russ Feingold interviewed by Amy Goodman. No. He’s still not running for governor.

Amy Goodman is one of my favorite wear-no-make-up, throw-no-softball-question journalists. Russ Feingold is the only politician I have literally stopped in the street so that I could beg him to run for office. I started out totally jazzed that they sat down to speak with each other this morning. I wound up feeling again all the disappointment I’ve had with Russ.

It’s just still hard to take that Feingold is not running for governor of my state. I didn’t expect to still feel this. Must be the fact that he has opted to sell President Obama and a book instead. Somebody in a far higher position than I bets that our fighting spirit and love for Russ will be transferred to President Obama. Interesting wager. I’m just not sure it works like that.

It’s said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I am a woman but I am also a Wisconsinite. Thus, I will try to be a *nice* woman scorned.

Suarez and Goodman start out going straight to the point, noting that Feingold not so long ago was lambasting President Obama for using SuperPAC funding [or specifically, sending key staff members to SuperPac fund raisers]. Amy Goodman asks Russ Feingold how he’s fighting Citizens United. He says pushing for Obama’s reelection is necessary so that a president will be there to appoint Supreme Court Justices that will overturn Citizens United. He adds that a legislative agenda –requiring disclosure of financing,strengthening public financing, and getting rid of our laughable campaign spending enforcment [the FEC] is essential. [I’ll point out that the got-to-get-Obama-in was mentioned first and the legislative push was mentioned second].

Like Amy Goodman I would also assume Russ would have a few issues with Obama’s vote on NDAA and some other issues relating to freedoms lost. Russ is after all the man who voted against the Patriot Act. Good old Amy tackles this head-on and doesn’t let go:

AMY GOODMAN: How would you rate—how would you grade President Obama on civil liberties? You have been critical on a number of issues.

RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I don’t do grades right now. That’s something that I prefer—

AMY GOODMAN: Aren’t you a professor?

RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I do grades—yes, at a law school I did grades. But I’m not going to grade the President. I will say this: I am disappointed in his commitment to civil liberties at this point. He needs to get his game back on that. the damage that’s been done….

His twists are so dizzying you could call them gymnastic. Here’s the final exchange:

AMY GOODMAN: You have to leave, but you are critical of the President on Afghanistan, critical of the President on civil liberties and on going the route of super PACs. That makes for an interesting co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

RUSS FEINGOLD: How about a co-chair that’s proud of him for bringing us healthcare for the first time in 70 years? How about a co-chair who thinks that he has actually done a good thing with the economy and helped with the stimulus package, and we’ve had 22 months of positive job growth? How about a co-chair for a president that has the best reputation overseas of any president in memory, that has reversed the awful damage of the Bush administration, who, in places like Cairo and in India and Indonesia, has reached out to the rest of the world? Believe me, on balance, there’s no question. And finally, how about a co-chair of a president who I believe will help us appoint justices who will overturn Citizens United?

Go HERE to read the transcript in full.

Or watch the whole interview.

What they said about Wisconsin

Amy gives my state just a bit of her focus at the end of the interview.

AMY GOODMAN: Just before you leave—I know that you just have a few minutes. You’re coming from Wisconsin. That’s where you’re based. That’s who you represented. And Wisconsin was ground zero for protest in this country. You might say it came right out of, maybe even inspired by, the Arab Spring. Before Occupy, there was Wisconsin.

Earlier this month, February 15th marked the first anniversary of the Wisconsin uprising that erupted after Republican Governor Scott Walker announced his plans to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers, as well as slash their pay and benefits. Now, a year later, Walker is in the midst of a recall and faces an investigation for campaign corruption.

It was February 14th last year when Walker first unveiled the curbs on state workers, after refusing to negotiate a new contract with them.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Good-faith negotiation requires give and take. We are broke in this state. We’ve been broke for years. People have ignored that for years, and it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth. The truth is, we don’t have money to offer. We don’t have finances to offer. This is what we have to offer. And if you’re going to negotiate, you’ve got to have something to offer. We don’t have something.

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Walker. Are you thinking of running for governor, taking on Governor Walker?

RUSS FEINGOLD: I don’t think he’s going to be governor very long. And we’re going to have some great candidates, people who I know, who have executive experience, who are going to run and defeat him. I served the people of the state proudly for 28 years. I’m taking a break for a couple years. But I have worked hard. And through Progressives United, we have supported this recall effort and will continue to. And I was one of the first people to sign the petition, and I am going to be thrilled to have a new governor in Wisconsin as early as early June.

AMY GOODMAN: It is not just a simple recall. People have to run against him.

RUSS FEINGOLD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: People are saying that you’re the sure-fire one. Is the state of Wisconsin, given your politics, important enough to you to run?

RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, of course, Wisconsin is extremely important to me. And the people that are running are people that I trust who really want to be governor at this time. I think that’s important. I think people have to know that the person who’s running is ready and eager to be governor the next day. I know a couple of our candidates that are likely to run are in that mode, and I think they are the right people to run. The notion that I’m the only guy that can do this, I think is wrong, because, you know what, this is a recall. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about sort of how do we, you know, figure out the ideal candidate. It’s about the fact that somebody did great violence to our state, and that we—if we have a credible candidate, who has experience, particularly executive experience, that’s going to be more persuasive to people in the state.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that Governor Walker did great violence. Explain what Governor Walker did. What do you think are his most egregious violations? And talk about the investigation, as well.

RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I don’t believe that recalls should just happen anytime. On the other hand, we have a recall law in Wisconsin. They don’t have it in Ohio, for example. They can overturn laws by—as they did, by a vote. So, what’s a recall for? Well, it obviously doesn’t require criminal conduct. That’s not what it’s for. Yes, the Governor is under investigation. But it goes down that route, you know, who knows? Maybe he wouldn’t even be in office, or maybe that would be considered in the recall. But what’s the recall for? The recall, I think, is for when somebody has caused such damage to the state that their continuation in their term will continue a polarization and an inability to move forward, that it has to happen. This is that moment.

It’s like on foreign policy. I opposed almost every war that was proposed, and I said—people said, “Well, is there a war you would ever support?” Yes, when al-Qaeda attacked New York City and Washington, that was the occasion. Same thing on a recall. When you have collective bargaining rights, that the state of Wisconsin began collective bargaining rights for public employees, and somebody doesn’t even say basically that they’ll do anything about it, and they come in and instantaneously do that, break every tradition and every courtesy that’s ever been used in the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly—and I served in that legislative body of the State Senate for 10 years—show complete disregard for the extreme polarization that it’s causing, that person has done violence to the culture and traditions of the state of Wisconsin.

Add one other thing: the attack on the voting rights of Wisconsinites. That’s the other basic thing. You can’t bring out the whole laundry list. Otherwise, people are going to say, “Well, you just want to have the election over.” But undermining voting rights and collective bargaining rights is so basic and so unfair—

AMY GOODMAN: How voting rights?

RUSS FEINGOLD: Oh, they’re requiring IDs and toughening up our laws that are—we have great pride that we have some of the most open and fair laws for people to vote, and they are trying to prevent people from voting. So, to me, these are offenses against the rights of the people that justify and actually require the recall of Governor Walker

Wisconsin News: Wisconsin Reps. Mark Pocan and Chris Taylor introduce Move to Amend resolution

Resolution Puts Congress on Notice that It Has One Year to Send Amendment to States for Ratification

MADISON – Two legislators began the process of overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case shortly after the two-year anniversary of the decision that created corporate personhood for the purpose of political speech.

State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) today introduced a resolution that calls for an amendment the United States Constitution to overturn the court ruling. If Congress fails to act, the resolution further calls for a National Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution.

“Corporations aren’t people and they shouldn’t be given the constitutional right to buy elections,” said Pocan. “This is the people’s government, not the corporation’s government. Corporations shouldn’t have the right to usurp individual rights to free speech.”

Additionally, the legislators argued the court ruling should be overturned because corporations are not mentioned in the US Constitution and the people have never bestowed constitutional rights upon corporations.

“Corporations don’t enjoy other individual rights such as the right to bear arms or the right to vote, so they shouldn’t also enjoy the right to free speech,” said Taylor. “I am proud to join this national effort right here in Wisconsin.”

The resolution is part of a national movement associated with Move to Amend. The organization has worked with several municipalities to pass advisory referenda and is now taking the fight to state legislatures. Voters in Madison and Dane County have each passed advisory referenda supporting the overturn of the Citizens United decision with 84 percent and 78 percent respectively.

“Citizens across the country are putting Congress and the Supreme Court on notice that an amendment is coming. Legislatures can either join the Movement to Amend or get out of the way,” stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap of Move to Amend. “Americans of all political persuasions are on board with an amendment to put We the People in charge of our government, not corporations. It is great to have two champions of the people like Pocan and Taylor step up to join the cause.”

Move to Amend has a goal to get 50 towns and cities to qualify their resolution on the ballot this November. Residents in West Alis, WI and Corvallis, OR have already qualified. Signature drives have begun in several Illinois towns, Mendocino County, CA and Salt Lake City, UT.

Republican Sen. Schultz wants to end politically motivated recall elections in Wisconsin

Wisconsin News: The Republican state lawmaker whose moderate politics placed him at the center of a fractious debate over the Wisconsin budget last year said Saturday in Mauston he plans to introduce legislation that will end politically motivated recall elections.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, told members of the Juneau County Republican Party at the party’s caucus that when recall efforts against Gov. Scott Walker and state legislators are finished, he will seek to “end the insanity” by amending the state’s constitution.
“I think recalls should be about malfeasance, about whether legislators are doing their jobs responsibly or not,” Schultz said.

Schultz bucked party leaders last year when he attempted to negotiate a compromise that would have restored bargaining rights in 2013 to public employees who stood to lose them in Walker’s budget.

The compromise failed and Walker’s budget eventually became law with the votes of legislators in both the Assembly and the Senate, including Schultz’s.Schultz said he believes in a robust debate within the halls of the State Capitol.
“I learned a long time ago that if I go into any room and everybody is thinking the same thing, there isn’t much thinking going on,” Schultz said….

Read the remainder at wiscnews.com

2011: the year Wisconsin fought back. SSWIDTMS’s most viewed videos of the year

Arthur of the facebook page Shit Scott Walker is Doing to My State is a combination organizer, videographer, and facebook blogger who has traveled across the state and across the country this year to protest. If you’ve watched more than 1 Wisconsin protest video this year, chances are you’ve watched 1 of Arthur’s pieces.

I was all set to just copy and paste his list of 2011 videos [which you’ll see below] but I started watching his videos again, and then I had to write something.

Certain moments in his videos are seared in joyous memory — like when people break out into the ‘Hey hey hey–goood bye’ chant in Beloit or the moment when I’m feeling the full force of protester rage contrasting with the delicate beauty of Devils Lake State Park.

Some things I remember are very personal. You’ll see below a video of Peter Yarrow in Zucotti Park. That day I watched Peter sing on a livestream while I got Arthur’s updates on facebook letting me know he was at Peter’s side. It was a moment of simple happiness and connection from Wisconsin to Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti Park. I sang along at home in Madison and tweeted about the moment, bouncing the signal and amplifying everything Peter said in my rudimentary way. All the stress of our politics was gone and I could feel the accomplishment of what we’ve learned how to do.

When I watch Arthur’s flotilla videos I remember how that came together by the power of Arthur’s enthusiasm and facebook alone on a weekend when hardly anybody was staying in town. There was even a moment when I was canoeing half-way across Lake Mendota against a hard wind that I wondered what the hell we were doing and wanted to turn back. Ultimately we had a fantastic time hurling our voices at the khaki-pants Republicans on the mansion lawn. Later when the Atlantic web site and Rachel Maddow and a slew of blogs picked up the flotilla video, it sunk in for me — a small group doing something goofy and gutsy could deliver a big pay-off in the media.

I’ve also treasured the zinger moments in his videos when he’s conversing with the villain in question up close. Such as the “Protesting Walker in Beloit” video when Arthur says “Are you drunk sir?” to the passing GOP legislator. And the brief video of Randy Hopper [another big drinker] in which Hopper rushes at Arthur and says “I’m going to ruin you for every F-ing thing you’ve done” is just the stuff a recall campaign needs. It’s not something you can plan for–you just have to be around a lot to grab those moments with your camera, and Arthur has been so often around and at the ready especially at the Capitol.

On the Capitol building: Arthur is 1 of the chief people pressing for greater freedom to record with a camera or tweet with a phone there. One day [I hope] I will be able to tweet 140 characters from Assembly chambers without being cited by a cop. Arthur is one of the people I – we – will need to thank for that.

SSWIDTMS started in May as a way to stop spamming all my friends facebook walls with so much political stuff they didn’t want to hear about,I figured I would let people opt in so to speak. I found a good way to show what was going on at the capitol and in these meetings was with video, well, 9 months later with over 100 videos uploaded and almost half of them having more than 2,000 views each it is safe to say that video has played a central role in the SSWIDTMS operation. Sometime in the last month we passed the 500,000 view count milestone, which is also pretty awesome! Now lets take a look back at some of the most viewed SSWIDTMS videos of the year.

Unfortunately the most viewed SSW video is not about WI with over 100,000 views on youtube and picked up by many national new outlet the most viewed SSWIDTMS video is-

#OWS Protesters March On The Brooklyn Bridge 700+ Arrested 10-1-11


Backup link to video

At the end of September Myself and a few other Wisconsin activists went to NYC to participate in the early stages of the Occupy Movement. I went to try to draw on the seemingly obvious parallels between our uprising in Wisconsin and the Occupy Movement and got the opportunity to talk with some really great people about the connection between the two.

Here are a few videos that were the result of some of those talks.

Angel Giboyeaux VP of TWU Local 100 on Wisconsin and #OccupyWallStreet


Backup link to video

Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary Has A Message to Wisconsin at #OccupyWallStreet

Backup link to video

#OccupyWallSt – Dr. Cornel West On How Awesome Wisconsin Is

Backup link to video

Next is

Sign of the Times – Arrests in the WI Assembly Gallery; 10 Cops, Really?

Backup link to video

Sign of the Times got a big boost in exposure due to the Daily Kos community picking up on what had been going on because of an excellent post by Daily Kos member Giles the Goat Boy.

Giles the Goat Boy continued to post updates to the Daily Kos about the assault of our first amendment rights in the Assembly gallery and also helped organize Concealed Camera Day

November 1st, Concealed Camera Day – 18 Arrested in Wisconsin Assembly

Backup link to video

Up next is

Protesting Walker in Beloit 7-18-11

Backup link to video

This is definitely one of my favorite videos. For me this experience really solidified for me how committed people were. This was very much outside of Madison and the energy was clearly building.

The next video was the video that started it all, for me at least with filming what was going on at the Capitol and putting it on youtube was

Mom cited when her two children hold a sign in the Wisconsin capitol

Backup link to video

A lot is owed to the Sargent Boys and Jeremy Ryan and others who took the stand back in March to protect our rights to have signs in the Capitol. I know for a lot of people this event got them back to the Capitol protesting Walker again after the Budget Bill protest.

Scott Walker’s Ad to Recall Himself

Backup link to video

The materiel for this video was just to good. There had been other videos made using the audio from the Walker ad but it was just too good to pass up. I think there still is a lot of stuff that this Walker ad could and probably will be used for. It is going to keep on giving.

Taking up the rear with just over 10,000 views is

A Day At Devil’s Lake With Scott Walker 6-25-11

Backup link to video

This was one of the first videos where I multiple video clips together to tell a story of a larger event. This also was the first large flotilla which was awesome and inspired me to organize several others.

Boats For Justice, Flotilla at Governor Walker’s (Our) Mansion 7-2-11

Backup link to video

and

Fancy Time Boat Protest

Backup link to video

And for dozens of other SSWIDTMS classics like,

Randy Hopper “I’m going to ruin you for every F-ing thing you’ve done”

Backup link to video

or

Grigsby – Drug Test The CEO’s Getting The Tax Credits

Backup link to video

and

Protesting After The Walworth Co GOP Steamboat Fundraising Cruise 7-17-11

Backup link to video

and

Lupe Fiasco – The End Of The World (Unofficial #OWS Anthem)

Lupe Fiasco – The End Of The World (Unofficial #OWS Anthem) from SSWIDTMS on Vimeo.

take some time and check out the archives here.

Thank you all for the amazing community that has sprung up so beautifully in response to this unfortunate situation we have found ourselves in.

Recall Walker!

Arthur of SSWIDTMS

You have the right to remain funny in Fitzwalkerstan

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

I actually do not find losing my rights this laughable. But for my own health, I’m trying.

Last night Stephen Colbert joked that “Governor Scott Walker implements a bold new policy requiring protesters to pay for the right to protest”.

It had me thinking we’ll be laughing all the way to the gulag if we keep going at this rate. [Feel free to tell me we are A) Not going to the gulag and B) Not going to keep losing our rights at this rate. Seriously. I like to be reassured.]

Whether we need them or not, here are a couple jokes about repressive reality culled from the net:

“How do you catch a lion? Easy: you catch a rabbit and beat it till it confesses to being a lion.”

Stalin decides to go out one day and see what it’s really like for the workers, so he puts on a disguise and sneaks out of the Kremlin. After a while he wanders into a cinema. When the film has finished, the Soviet Anthem plays and a huge picture of Stalin appears on the screen. Everyone stands up and begins singing, except Stalin, who smugly remains seated. A minute later a man behind him leans forwards and whispers in his ear: “Listen Comrade, we all feel exactly the same way you do, but trust me, it’s a lot safer if you just stand up.”

For more on Walker’s pay-to-protest policy, see Nobody Buys DOA Disinformation at Wisconsin Capitol

The first big implementation of the policy is expected Monday Dec. 19.

Nobody Buys DOA Disinformation at Wisconsin Capitol

About 30-50 people gathered in the Capitol building’s basement this morning to question Chief Tubbs and a Department of Administration rep. on a new policy that will — among other things — force protesters at Wisconsin’s Capitol building to pay for additional law enforcement and treat groups of 4 or more people as “rallies”. DOA’s Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr asserted repeatedly he is not an attorney and could not answer legal questions about policy. Answers from Tubbs and Schoenherr were usually variations on the following:
1- “I’m not going to respond to a hypothetical situation.”
2- “The policy is based on Chapter 2 in the administrative code. Our legal team believes it is defendable.”

Brian S. asked about the “hypothetical” on everybody’s mind:
“”Let’s say that whenever the implementation date is, that there are 150 singers in the rotunda, are you prepared to make 150 arrests if those people do not voluntarily comply?”
Tubbs: I’m not going to respond to a hypothetical
Brian S.: It is not a hypothetical.
Tubbs: We will evaluate that situation. I am not going to give up the ability we have as a law enforcement agency to professionally deal with a situation that could be questionable.” The Solidarity Sing Along group has been singing at noon every weekday at the Capitol since March 11. Song leader Chris Reeder has made it clear the group is not going to get a permit to “exercise our free speech rights”.

One of the “hypotheticals” posed by Katy R. was: “If I want to bring 3 members of my family to see the holiday tree – if we have the same sentiment that we want to express at the same time – is that going to turn this into a rally?”

Schoenherr replied, “It is a practical matter. That’s something we’ll have to work out on an individual basis… If you want to just have your family here and say ‘God bless America’ that would be OK.

I think Schoenherr has no clue how disturbing that comment sounded.

Greg P. used Schoenherr’s comment to frame the perilous state that DOA’s policy puts free speech in:
“.. it would be so easy for these procedures to be selectively enforced. You said before if people want to come to the Christmas tree lighting and say “God bless America” that would be OK. But that’s a problem. What if people want to come to the Christmas tree lighting and say “God damn America”. – – those are equivalent things and if you enforce this on people that say “God damn America” and not “God bless America”, that is a serious problem”.

Assembly Representative Chris Taylor said that the DOA’s restricted Capitol policy is at the top of her constituents’ minds. She said, “..it really seems to be we are imposing a fee on people’s exercise of their constitutional rights if we’re going to say you have to pay to participate in a large gathering. Then we’re saying in order to express yourself politically, you’re going to have to pay to do that and I don’t know how you all are going to get around some really settled constitutional provisions.”

The response to Rep. Taylor: Answer #2.

Ed K. expressed outright anger for charging for protest: “This is a user fee. We get a policy that’s raising taxes on specific people making use of this building. That’s objectionable. It’s against all of the history of this state…” He added that the public should see what account the money would go to and what would be done with it.”

Ed K. requested both a copy of the previous policy on protests and a base line of regular staffing – such as what might be learned by studying a year’s worth of Capitol officer time sheets. His 2nd request was rebuffed by Tubbs who said that he could not give that information out for security reasons.

Tim R. asked a key question on timing:
“I don’t believe that the question of ‘Why now?’ has been answered adequately at all. You would forgive us all for concluding that this governor will not countenance any dissent. He will not countenance free speech. I recall him saying some months ago ‘Oh the solidarity singers. Those are 20 teachers. Who cares.’ Well it is more than 20 teachers. There’s a lot of people there. It seems to me it is rubbing him the wrong way and THAT is why we are getting this policy and I would like an answer to that.”

DOA disinformation capitol education

The official answer to this “Why now?” question was given already, but it was just so weak, nobody accepted it. Schoenherr said DOA changed the policy now because (1) DOA didn’t believe it had 1 document to answer the public’s questions on permits and (2) There is a precedent set with the status of a lawsuit filed by Ben Masel.

Leslie A. brought files on 3 lawsuits to the meeting. They originated with the late Ben Masel and established that Wisconsinites do not need a permit for assembly in the Capitol or on the Capitol grounds and do not need a permit for an amplification device. She said ” … Are you suggesting that you’re going to require people to get a permit when it’s not required? When it’s settled law? … Is DOA suggesting that they are going to violate settled law in order to conduct an illegal permit process and they will require us to sue the DOA yet again which is at taxpayer expense for the DOA to defend it?”

In reply Chief Tubbs asserted that the largest protests this year were under permits. Tubbs said, “..let me be clear: the permits are not new.”

I made a quick call to Jeff Scott Olsen, an expert in constitutional law who served for decades as attorney for the late constitutional activist Ben Masel. He said Leslie was referencing a lawsuit which challenges the constitutionality of DOA-issued permits to assemble at the Capitol. The filing was amended to substitute the organization NORML for Ben in September. He said that around that time Wisconsin’s Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar told him DOA was going to replace existing regulations in October or November of this year. Olsen said he will work on fighting the DOA case ASAP now that new procedures are out, but he can not pinpoint when his 1st legal action will take place.

After listening to about 1 hour of non-answer answers on DOA’s policy this morning, I thought I may as well give it a shot. I asked, “Do you think that these procedural changes are in line with the principles of democracy?” I got answer # 2 from Schoenherr.

From behind me Jenna Pope shot back at Schoenherr, “You realize that by saying this over and over again it doesn’t make it true.”

The new DOA policy is set to go into effect on Saturday December 17. According to WNPJ, the sponsor of the singing group, Monday, December 19th will be the first day the Solidarity Sing-Along will be subject to the new policy. You can keep up to date with the Solidarity Sing Along group through their facebook page.

More images from the disinformation session are at the blue cheddar facebook page.

Link to highlights of the 22 page policy and a PDF copy.

The ACLU write-up: DOA Information Session on Protest Permit/Liability Scheme Leaves Citizens with More Questions

Brian Standing’s WORT FM report on this event is in this audio news report.

Madison Police: Providing a Safe Place for Democracy

Recently we’ve seen a lot of iconic images of police brutality against peaceful protesters from all over the country.

377133_237915742940069_100001649365281_673459_1985235250_n

388762_233625820038733_217514361649879_656032_1109293620_n

tampatank

383069_2714478383323_1297846661_33168207_973547292_n

From New York City to Tampa to Denver to Oakland and Davis, California, police are apparently under the illusion that violence is an appropriate response when the people exercise their constitutional right to free speech and peaceable assembly to petition for a redress of serious grievances.

But in Madison, Wisconsin, site of some of the biggest protests in the country earlier this year and just a few days ago, the police have by and large protected our right to peaceably assemble. This past Saturday, between 25,000 and 30,000 protesters demonstrated around the capitol square in Madison in support of the effort to recall Scott Walker, and according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the capitol police had “reported no arrests as of Saturday afternoon.” No arrests. No brutality. No pepper spray.

On February 19 of this year, soon after Walker et al. launched their heinous all-out attack on workers, schools, and health care in Wisconsin, the Madison police went so far as to commend Wisconsin protesters on their good behavior:

SATURDAY’S CAPITOL SQUARE DEMONSTRATIONS
Law Enforcement Praises Protesters’ Conduct

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. … The goal of law enforcement has been to provide a safe environment for democracy to take place. That goal has been realized for yet another day.

“The goal of law enforcement has been to provide a safe environment for democracy to take place.” That was very cool at the time, but in light of recent events, it’s extraordinary. So let’s turn it around, shall we?

The people of Wisconsin praise law enforcement officers’ conduct.

IMG_0938

I’m sure I’m not alone in my gratitude for the police who have supported our efforts and our right to peaceably assemble. Thank you for not pepper-spraying or clubbing us, for not telling us we can’t exercise our constitutional rights. Thank you for treating us with dignity and respect rather than with violence and brutality. Thank you for not hurting our friends and family—the elderly and the very young—who have gathered with us. You are truly a shining example in what otherwise is a dark night of shame. Just as the rest of the nation has been inspired by Wisconsin protesters, we hope that the nation’s law enforcement agencies will be similarly inspired by you.

Appleton City Workers to Receive Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits

Score another win for progress in Appleton, WI. Last night the Appleton Common Council adopted the proposal by  Ald. Teege Mettille to give health and dental benefits to registered same-sex domestic partners for both union and nonunion city employees. This is an expansion of the September 7 vote by the Appleton Common Council to offer registered same-sex domestic partners to nonunion city employees only. We’re getting one small step closer to equality in this country and I, for one, am pretty excited about it.

As reported by Michael Louis Vinson of the Appleton Post Crescent:

“To audible gasps and sighs from the 30-person audience, the Appleton Common Council voted 10-6 to extend health and dental coverage to registered same-sex domestic partners of city employees.”

It’s about time that same-sex committed couple start receiving benefits previously reserved for opposite-sex partners. There’s still a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction.

However, not everyone agrees with my assessment. More from the article.

“Ald. Jeff Jirschele expressed concern that the council’s action would benefit a “narrow band” of employees and unfairly ignore unmarried opposite-sex couples.
Jirschele said those couples may not want to or be able to obtain legal recognition of their relationships — something the health and dental benefit policy requires.
“That makes them no less a domestic partnership,” Jirschele said. “The value of the marriage contract is less and less attractive as a choice.””
One point he brought up is that this measure ignores opposite-sex domestic couples. Heterosexual couples have the option to marry each other. Homosexual couples do not have this choice. The only legal commitment same-sex couples can make to each other is the domestic partnership. I do however agree with the premise that all registered domestic partners should be receive the same benefits. That would be equal treatment as domestic partnerships, whether same-sex or opposite-sex are showing the same level of legal commitment to each other.
Jirschele said unmarried opposite-sex couples who “may not want to or are able to obtain legal recognition of their relationships” are just as much a domestic partnership as couples who have registered their partnership. Living together is not the same as a domestic partnership. There is a legal process involved with getting recognized as a couple. Couples who seek legal recognition of their relationship tend to be more committed than those who do not.
It would be interesting to see how this would play out in real life if unmarried opposite-sex couples could get health benefits. For one, the couples wouldn’t have to provide proof they were a couple. Marriage and domestic partner registration is proof of a serious, long-term commitment. Sharing an address with someone else doesn’t prove commitment. It just proves you live together.
Secondly, why would anyone want to provide partner benefits to someone who isn’t qualified to be legally recognized as a couple? I could see a lot of strange situations surrounding that one. In these difficult economic times, more family members are cohabiting to save money. What’s stopping any two opposite gender family members from asking for partner benefits simply because they live together? What’s to stop a married, but separated person, from moving in with someone else and asking for benefits for the new person? Would the official spouse still be eligible for benefits? There are too many variables to cover each one. Suffice to say, it could get complicated very quickly if the city can’t definitively prove who is and who is not a committed couple. Marriage and registered domestic partnerships offer this proof.
Also from the article:
“Ald. Kathy Plank said requiring couples to acquire whatever legal status is available to them — same-sex domestic partnership or marriage — would be a “prudent and responsible” way to protect the city against fraud, an argument Council President Cathy Spears supported.”
I agree with Kathy’s sentiment. Offering same-sex partner benefits to all city workers is a good start, but I think same-sex marriage would be the best way to clear up any equal treatment questions. Offering same-sex domestic partnerships doesn’t provide the same rights and protections as marriage. If marriage and domestic partnerships were exactly the same there would be no need for opposite-sex domestic partnerships. If heterosexual couples can have domestic partnerships, homosexual couples should be given the option to marry. History has proven time and time again that separate is not equal when it comes to education or anything else. The same is true for how we recognize couples and families in society.

Samantha Masterton: “I was arrested for taking pictures”


This is written by Samantha Masterton and has appeared in the Wausau Daily Herald:

On Nov. 1, the first day it was legal to carry concealed guns in Wisconsin, I was arrested.

I had traveled to Madison to participate in Concealed Camera Day, an organized protest against concealed carry and the unconstitutionality of Assembly gallery rules. I carried my camera into the Assembly gallery, quietly snapped pictures, and was promptly arrested.

Two of the many rules of the Assembly gallery are the prohibition of photography and signs. Although these rules have been in place for some years, it is only recently that they are being challenged. I have been watching with increasing horror as illegal arrests have been perpetrated against peaceful citizens who were photographing or holding signs in the gallery.

People have been arrested for displaying copies of the U.S. Constitution. Pictures of apple pie, Ronald Reagan and Mother Teresa have been grounds for arrest. One man was arrested for wearing a cross made of paper and tied around his neck with a piece of yarn. The cross was considered a sign because it had words on it: “For God so loved the world.” These arrests enrage me.

Gov. Scott Walker has called special sessions of the Legislature in which public debate is essentially eliminated. The doors of the Capitol are routinely illegally locked during Assembly and Senate sessions, severely limiting citizen access. Walker’s administration has held public meetings in spaces too small to comfortably accommodate all who wish to speak.

Government transparency, public discourse and debate should be nonpartisan issues. These issues and the trampling of our First Amendment rights have put me in such an agitated state that I took a day off from work to make the trek to Madison and risk arrest.

The Assembly session on Nov. 1 began around 6:30 p.m. Upon entering the single gallery that was open (another barrier to citizen involvement), I was handed a small slip of paper listing the gallery rules. On the lighted information board across the room, I clearly saw the admonishment, “Please follow all posted rules.” I took a picture of the sign.

One of the pages quickly told me to put my camera away, and I refused, stating that it was my right to take pictures.

It was only a matter of minutes later, when I was quietly photographing the arrest of another protester, that I was approached by two police officers and was asked to leave the gallery with them. I did not resist.

The officers escorted me down the hall and handcuffed me. I was told I was under arrest for breaking the Assembly rules. I repeatedly asked what law I had broken. The charge ended up being for “other conduct prohibited – obstruction” with an attached fine of $205.50.

I was taken, flanked by the officers, to a basement cafeteria and a makeshift processing center where I sat, still handcuffed, while I was written a citation. Other arrestees filtered in, each flanked by two officers, who ranged in demeanor from embarrassed to angry.

It was all over in a matter of 15 minutes. The handcuffs were taken off, I was handed my citation, and I was told that I could not re-enter the Assembly gallery that night. All told, eighteen people were arrested.

Many of these arrests were captured on video. One of the best is on YouTube under the title “Police State – Concealed Cameras in the Wisconsin Capitol.” My arrest is at the two-minute mark.

All of the previous citations for holding signs or photographing meetings have been dismissed, and I expect that mine will be dismissed, as well. I expect no other negative repercussions to come from my arrest. It was a farce, honestly, and I do not feel as if I did anything noble or heroic.

All I did was refuse to comply with what I feel is an illegal rule that is in direct violation of the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions and of Wisconsin statutes. Statute 19.90 states, “Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting.”

And I will refuse to comply again, if need be. “The First Amendment,” said one of the signs in the gallery, “Use it or lose it.”

Good news (for now). Wisconsin tech school students can use school ID to vote and all schools can sticker IDs

The good news is that the Government Accountability Board decided unanimously to reverse its previous course and allow students of technical schools in Wisconsin to use student IDs as voter IDs. GAB also voted to stay with their previous decision to allow stickers to be used on IDs to indicate that they are current.

The bad news is that things could change for the roughly 400,000 students in a Wisconsin 2 or 4 year school. The decisions this body made are possibly reversed by the JCRAR or Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. More on that at the end of this post.

Update 8:46pm: Senator Leah Vukmir has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to order the Government Accountability Board to put its policy on student IDs into a rule format so that her committee can then suspend it. More here at “Wisconsin GOP pissed at GAB: Tuesday Rules Hearing Called by Vukmir to Reverse Decision on Voter ID”.

G.A.B. reversed course on tech school IDs because they realized they had violated state statute in disallowing their use in voting. Judge Cane made the argument that the tech schools pass 3 tests set forth for school IDs in Wisconsin’s new voting ID law. He said they fall under the definition of universities, the definition of colleges, and that of non-profit institutions.

I attended the bulk of the GAB’s meeting this morning, catching some on WisEye at home and a couple of hours before lunch at the Capitol. A contingent of students were there, about half wearing blue Madison College T-shirts and the other half wearing suits or dress wear. Another set of citizens also attended including a contingent of women from Waukesha I’m getting accustomed to seeing at the Capitol.

Below is some of their testimony:

Director of State Relations Don Nelson of UW-Madison gave information on the research he has been doing to be ready to bring student ID’s into compliance with new voter law such as ensuring that they have a 2 year expiration instead of the 5 year expiration they currently have. He said UW is looking at 2 options: altering all cards issued or a less expensive option of issuing a cheaper 2nd ID that is suitable for voting. He said the 1 card solution will run about $5.00 per card while the 2 card solution runs about $1.00 per card. He said UW Madison was not looking seriously at stickering IDs since it interferes with swiping the card [UW Madison’s ID is also used as a payment tool].

Nelson said UW Madison is starting to look into developing an ID that is compliant with all other schools. It’s fairly common now for students to get beginning credits for a 4 year degree from a cheaper local community college and then transfer them in.

The proposal of a consistent school I.D. across all schools in Wisconsin was made in testimony by Waukesha’s David Ryan. I caught up with him later to see how he felt about stickering. He was not happy. He said that legislators who came up with the voter I.D. bill were not knowledgeable enough about the schools of Wisconsin and weren’t thinking of students having 2 IDs at their disposal when they transfer schools. He said he supports the voter I.D. law [I assumed so, but asked to verify] adding “This is the first state I’ve lived in that did not require an I.D. to vote.”

Rose Clearmont testified about her difficulty in getting her Driver’s License renewed to explain why demanding that students have a valid non-school I.D. is not workable. She lives in Sun Prairie and goes to school at Madison College for accounting training as well as at an online school. She recently needed to get a current driver’s license and had to first go to Walworth County where she was adopted to get a birth certificate which cost around $20. That was a 1/2 day’s time for her. She said following she had to spend 4 hours in a DMV to get the driver’s license. When I asked her questions in the hallway, she said that she at first thought that the G.A.B. was discriminating against 2 year schools in Wisconsin but that it appeared that they simply made a mistake in their judgement. She said she is normally not so politically involved, but she was elected to the Madison College Student Senate in October and is suddenly very involved.

I asked Jennifer Johnson, President of Madison College’s Student Senate for 3 years, if getting students to polls or ensuring they were registered to vote was a key mission of her group in the 2010 midterms. She said “no” but that now that the voter ID law was being implemented they would do what they could to work with any group getting information out to students about the changes. It’s clear from this Clarion post, Jennifer has been working to get clarity on IDs for Madison College since July of 2011.

Jayme Montgomery of the League of Young Voters in Milwaukee gave GAB both information about her group’s outreach work and 3 requests: 1-Get information about voter ID clarified by the end of the month. 2-Create a strong brand around voter ID. [Her group is using a twitter hashtag #readysetvote] and 3-Help the DMVs achieve transparency. She said there is confusion at the DMV if people ask for the ID and added that “we are working to make sure all have a chance to participate”. I believe she was referring to the DMV’s don’t tell unless they ask policy which requires that staff not inform the public that a photo ID for voting is free unless the customer specifically asks for the a photo ID for voting AND states that he or she has a financial hardship.

I doubt that G.A.B. will do anything so proactive as to assist Wisconsin voters in “branding”. Their dialog revolved around adhering to the voter I.D. statute that was handed to them, avoiding litigation, and making sure that the voting I.D. solution implemented was affordable for colleges.

Bryan Bliss made a case in testimony against requiring notarizing recall sheets and called their use an actual step backwards, saying Wisconsin did away with the practice because notaries did not understand how to conduct the oathe and wound up covering for fraudulent signatures. Bliss also called for use of email-able petitions with modern double checks on fields in the forms to add verification of data. “The Wisconsin constitution says that laws can only be made to facilitate recalls, not to restrict or inhibit them,” said Bliss. Requiring petitions be notarized also “counts as a recall tax. There are statutory fees associated with notarizing petitions.”

A final note: I did not count how many times a judge repeated some variation on this question, “Will your tech school credits transfer to a university?” But I wish I had. The fact that the credits at a 2 year school in Wisconsin transfer to a 4 year school was either quite surprising to this body or they were trying to pound this point for the public. The people on the G.A.B. panel are judges, all look to be above 50-years-old, and they appear well appointed financially. I wondered if today’s testimony is the first time they’ve really learned about technical schools from the Wisconsinites who attend them. When Madison College student Rose said to them, “Do you folks have 4 hours out of your day to wait in the DMV?” I thought, “Yes they do. But you do not.”

The next meeting of JCRAR is 10AM tomorrow.

The next meeting of the G.A.B. is December 13th.

Why I Fear JCRAR Could Tweak or Reverse This:

I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think JCRAR would reverse the direction of G.A.B.’s decision given what it recently did to Van Hollen. JCRAR recently eliminated a 4 hour training requirement that A.G.Van Hollen wanted on conceal carry permits. Technically it is Pam Galloway who led the charge to reverse that but in JCRAR but my gut says it was the NRA who called the shots. From NRA’s site: “Unfortunately, DOJ has chosen to overstep its authority by imposing conditions on prospective concealed weapons license applicants that the legislature never adopted or intended”.

The reversal of all other democratic process related to statues in Wisconsin was made possible by a bill passed in June: Wisconsin Act 21. It is the most lethal of all of the legislation passed by Walker’s Republican-domnated legislature. It hands Walker the power to effectively reverse all work done by other bodies on state statutes.

I called JCRAR member Rep. Kessler’s office to learn if the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules will take up the rule on voter ID and was told that if they do, and they might, it would not be for some time since Kevin Kennedy said it would take a long time to create an impact statement around it.

From dane101:
After recessing for a lunch break the GAB also voted to conduct upcoming recall elections in observance of pre-Act 23 legislative districts, going against recent efforts by Republican legislators to move up the implementation date of the redistricting bill.

Note: Rebecca Kemble of the Progressive has kept a close watch on JCRAR.

Wisconsin’s new Voter ID Law Causes Confusion in Neenah

The other day I received a call from a friend of mine, I’ll call her Jane. Jane was very upset and confused because of the letter her father received from the city clerk of Neenah, Patricia A. Sturn. The above letter was her source of confusion. It was sent to “permanent absentee voters.” This letter tells people they need to send their photo ID to the city clerk in order to continue to receive absentee ballots. Her father didn’t want to do this. I didn’t blame him and told her that we would get it sorted out.

My first goal was to figure out what a “permanent absentee voter” is. Permanent absentee voters are registered voters who because of “age, illness, infirmity or disability” can’t make it to the polls. See the Wisconsin Application for Absentee Ballot for details. Once a person checks the box saying they are “permanently confined” they will automatically receive ballots for all future elections until they fail to return a ballot. This means permanent absentees voters only complete this form one time.

The letter from the Neenah city clerk states “Wisconsin Act 23 of 2011 requires electors requesting absentee ballots to provide a copy of identification or any authorized substitute document with his or her application.” If the voter is already registered as a permanent absentee voter they will not be completing an absentee ballot request because they are automatically receiving ballots.

Looking at “Absentee voting Wisconsin’s New Voter Phot ID Law” document from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board I learned that “indefinitely confined electors (permanent absentees)” may provide a substitute document with their absentee ballots. Notice it says provide a substitute document instead of a photo ID with their ballot. This does not say they need to provide a photo ID or substitute document in order to receive a ballot, which is what the Neenah city clerk was stating.

Jane and I went to Neenah city hall and talked to the city clerk about this. Patricia Sturn is a very nice, personable person who takes her job very seriously. She wants to do what’s best for the people she represents and patiently answered all of our questions. We all agreed that permanent absentee voters do not need to provide photo ID in order to receive a ballot. She wanted to get “ahead of the game” because many things were changing at the end of the year. I applaud her wanting to be proactive, but don’t agree with how it’s being handled. Patricia told voters they will not receive a ballot unless they provide information that isn’t required until they submit a completed ballot.

I expressed my concerns that this population may read her letter and send their photo IDs to her office. She mentioned that she hoped people would call her office before doing this and said she was receiving quite a few calls about her letter. I didn’t hear the phone ring one time during the entire time we were speaking with the clerk and her assistant. Jane said she was concerned people wouldn’t want to send their photo ID to the city clerk, they wouldn’t call the office to find out more, they would simply chose not to vote.

Patricia gave Jane an alternative ID document that her office created for permanent absentee voters. She said this document could be completed instead of having people send in a copy of their photo ID. The original letter said nothing about this form. According to the WI GAB web site, the substitute ID document is on the absentee ballot envelope, so am not sure if this is a valid alternative document.

This instance strikes me as as “much ado about nothing” because permanent absentee voters aren’t required to send photo ID because they may provide a substitute document in lieu of photo ID and some form of ID isn’t required until they return their completed ballot. After we met Jane told her father about this and ran into a few other people who lived in the same apartment building. They told her they planned on not voting because they didn’t want to send their photo ID to the city clerk.

Jane was told the League of Women Voters was looking into this. I called the Wisconsin GAB and told them about my experience. The representative told me he would call Patricia to make sure everything was being handled properly. I didn’t call to get her in trouble or out of spite. I simply want to make sure correct information is being sent to permanent absentee voters.

Where to even start with this. First off, threatening to take away someone’s franchise because they hadn’t provided documentation that isn’t required under the law is wrong. Secondly, asking that people send their photo ID in the mail is wrong and leaves them open to having their identity stolen if their ID is intercepted in the mail. My last point is if the city clerk in Neenah is coming up with her own documents and methods, how many others are? This could lead to every city clerk in Wisconsin doing their own thing when it comes to enforcing the new voter ID law and doesn’t guarantee the law is being followed at the city level. This could lead to mass confusion and at the end of the day doesn’t do anything to curtail voter fraud.

Free speech arrests: The view from the Assembly floor by Sara Schulz

There have been some strange, long nights in the Assembly, but last night was one of the strangest. The Assembly was due to come back into session at 6:30pm, and people began filing into the gallery by 6:10pm. As the guests were waiting to watch the proceedings, they broke out in “Solidarity Forever” before settling down and talking quietly amongst themselves.

The guests were all seated in the West Gallery. Since the West Gallery is positioned above the Press Corp, the only press able to see the West Gallery was the four seated across the room by the Speaker’s podium, where I was located, and the three that were in the Gallery.

The first arrest occurred around 6:25pm. The individual was removed for using a camera in the gallery. We got through the first couple of bills with a couple more arrests. Early on in the proceedings, the Assembly Speaker threatened to shut down the Gallery due to noise. The Assembly took a break and during the break, some of the Democrats convinced the Speaker to keep it open. By this time, there were several Conservation Cops, Capitol Cops, and ten more State Troopers present. That’s when it got ugly.

First, the officers began removing and arresting anyone with a camera. I heard that a person with a toy camera was even removed. And later that evening, they tried to remove someone who had a pack of gum that, to them, looked like a camera. It’s hard to tell how many were removed….but so many that the cops became backlogged. It was during this time that the editor of the Progressive Magazine and frequent guest on my show, Matt Rothschild, was arrested for taking photos of someone getting arrested for taking photos of the Gallery. You can read his views here.

While all this was going on, the Assembly worked right along, passing bills that had nothing to do with jobs, but bills that the GOP felt were important. The bills that were passed while Wisconsin citizens were getting arrested are: SB 28, AB 69, AB 147, AB 301, AB 116, and SB 107 among others. I highly recommend that you read these bills. They are sad, amusing, and as stated above, not one of them creates jobs.

Then, in the middle of one debate, Rep. Alvin Ott stood up and started screaming into the microphone that a woman up in the gallery was holding an ALEC sign and that she was bothering him. He demanded that she be removed .So the woman, who was nicely dressed in a suit, silently holding a sign, was removed by the police and so was everyone else with a sign.

The flurry of activity continued while the Assembly argued about non-job related bills. Rep. Cory Mason was one of the only legislators to comment on what was happening. He, at one point, tweeted that there were half as many people there compared to when they started. And that was very true…by that time, there were.

When all was said and done there were 18 arrests. 18 law abiding citizens were arrested, ticketed, and released for following what the State and US Constitution allows them to do….take photos and hold signs. Most of these people had never before been arrested, and some even brought their kids. All were there exercising their Constitutional rights. Welcome to another night in Fitzwalkerstan.

Postscript-Sara Schulz does an excellent live online call-in show on Wisconsin politics and news every Friday at 9-11AM Central HERE. Her shows are also repeated on Madison’s 99.1 FM every Saturday 6-8PM Central. You can listen to archived shows and even subscribe by itunes or RSS feed so you never miss an episode. – blue cheddar

Hat tip to Waukesha Wonk for editing.

Is Being Called “Madison of the North” a Bad Thing?

Appleton Alderman Jim Clemons asked the Common Council to revisit same sex domestic partner benefits for nonunion city employees. This measure was defeated last night, but will probably be brought up again on November 9th when the council meets to adopt the 2012 budget. Here’s a list of both public and private employers that offer same sex partner benefits.

Of course, Jo Egelhoff and Berry Bovee, spokespeople for Appleton Taxpayers United were present at the meeting. Click here for one of my previous posts about Appleton Taxpayers United. From Michael Vinson of the Appleton Post Crescent.

“During the public hearing and again moments before the council voted, former Ald. Jo Egelhoff and Perry Bovee — leaders of the group Appleton Taxpayers United — chided the council for the way the policy was adopted and asked them to revisit the issue.”

Some of the comments caught my attention.
““We all have the freedom to believe as we like, to pursue our own affairs,” said Bob Stratton of Appleton. “But it is against my moral beliefs … I do not want my money that I’ve worked hard for to go supporting their lifestyles.””

Bob Stratton says that same sex domestic partner benefits goes against his “moral beliefs”. I believe it’s moral to treat all families, both homosexual and heterosexual the same. He said that he doesn’t want his hard earned money going towards “supporting their lifestyles”. City workers work hard for their pay and benefits. Does a heterosexual worker work harder than his/her homosexual coworker? Of course not, so why should heterosexual workers potentially get more compensation than a homosexual worker?

“John Cox of Appleton said the policy has “moral implications” and worried the benefits are a sign that Appleton is “slouching toward Gomorrah” only to become a “little Madison of the north.””

Really, this guy really said that treating all nonunion city workers equally shows that Appleton is “slouching toward Gomorrah” and will become a “little Madison of the north”? It’s tough knowing even where to start with his comments. To me this policy does have “moral implications”. It means Appleton is willing and able to treat everyone equally. That’s something to be celebrated, not cursed or taken back. He also mentions “slouching toward Gomorrah”. I’ve heard/seen that comment before. It seems to be a common talking point these days. As far as “little Madison of the north”. Is John implying that the only gay people in Wisconsin live in Madison or does he mean that liberal people only live in the Madison area? I’ve run into quite a few people that truly believe that Madison is the only place in the state where progressive people live. I hate to break it to them, but it’s simply not the case. There are many good, progressive voices here in the valley and they’re getting louder every year. For the record I would welcome the label of “little Madison of the north” because in my mind it beats Appleton’s current claims to fame of being the hometown of Senator Joe McCarthy and John Birch Society headquarters.

The meeting then moved onto heart breaking testimony.
“Darla Barker of Shiocton, whose openly gay teenage son, Cody, died by suicide last fall after he was bullied at school, choked back tears as she spoke.
“Cody could have been your son, your nephew,” Barker said. “It is so very important we educate others to make sure we are a safe and welcoming community for all … We lead by example.”

No parent for any reason should outlive their children. Losing a child to suicide is a horror I can’t even begin to imagine. Openly bullying LGBT students happens everywhere in this country and many students have killed themselves as a direct result of this bullying. We can and must do better by our LGBT students in the Fox River Valley. Every student must feel safe and welcome, not only at school, but in the community at large.

From Dan Savage’s September 23, 2010 post:

“Maria Peeples, Barker’s peer mentor through GSA for Safe Schools, said he was a passionate activist for all students, especially those, “targeted or ostracized for their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression… He really cared about making schools a safe place for students. That wasn’t always his own experience with school.””

The thing that really caught my attention is a comment at this page. It speaks volumes for what the LGBT community faces here in the Fox Valley every day.

“I’m from Appleton, WI and lived in terror each day of high school that I would be outed. It truly does get better. I came out as soon as I left.”

Do we really want the children in our community living in “terror” because they are afraid people will find out who they are? School should be a safe place to learn and grow as people, not a place to fear and dread because of bullying. I almost lost a friend to suicide because he was bullied after being outed. Luckily for him he was allowed to finish high school doing home schooling, but it shouldn’t have been that way. He should have felt safe enough to return to school and shouldn’t have been bullied at all. He was such a bright, kind and caring person I still have a problem imagining why anyone would want to hurt him.

Appleton has the opportunity to start embracing all members of the community and give equal treatment to all nonunion city employees. Opponents say that we can’t “afford” to pay for extra benefits right now or they don’t “morally approve” of same sex couples. Appleton can’t afford to treat any of its workers unfairly. Our children are watching, we need to set a clear example for them that fair treatment is expected as part of every day life. We should embrace same sex domestic partner benefits because it’s the fair and right thing to do.

Witnessing 18 free speech arrests in Wisconsin

Backup link to video

18 Wisconsin residents were arrested for legal use of cell phones and cameras in the Assembly gallery of Wisconsin’s Capitol building last night. At least 35 of the people who attended the meeting last night were there as part of a coordinated Concealed Camera action organized by blogger Giles Goat Boy, Arthur of SSWIDTMS, and the facebook group Occupy the Constitution.

Citations were given for “other conduct prohibited” and “obstructing,” according to Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs. If history is any guide, these citations will be summarily thrown out of court since they violate state statute 19.90 which allows for filming of government meetings in Wisconsin.

I did do some filming and photography in the Assembly gallery but didn’t get arrested. Matt Rothschild of the Progressive magazine did the same and got cited. In a similarly capricious fashion some were handcuffed while others were not.

Some arrested were quiet while others asked the officers if they knew what they were doing was illegal. The officers were a mix of Capitol police, state troopers, and at least one DNR warden. I saw no use of excessive force and all who were removed from the gallery remained calm and peaceful. State troopers were the most imposing officers- keeping an expressionless face or even a hard stare with a body posture I can only call “ready”.

Whenever I ran into a friend in a hallway it seemed somebody had a new story to tell: “Did you see Karen waving her ALEC sign? And waving money at the Assemblymen? One of them pointed at her and called for her to be removed”. “Did you see the grandmother of 5 who got taken out with her toy camera?”

I followed the arrested through the Capitol’s dim echoing hallways, into elevators and the basement where they were issued citations and released. Two protesters prowled around yelling at troopers. At one point C.J. was yelling bloody murder and I thought he was getting beaten but it turned out he was just yelling. This would happen repeatedly but I couldn’t really tune him out and it just made the scene more disturbing and intolerable to me. I have no idea if he was also getting under the skin of the troopers he was yelling at. They kept stoney-faced.

I felt like I was weaving around marble tunnels hovering around cops and detained people until midnight and I was surprised when somebody told me it was only 8:30PM. At one point I got lost – as I always do in the Capitol – and found myself on the Senate side in a hallway looking at two vast paintings. One was a mock-up of one of the Capitols Wisconsin has constructed through history. Another was a draft in rust-red chalk of the mural which sits in the center of the rotunda dome “Resources of Wisconsin”.


Image Above: Mural “Resources of Wisconsin” from madison.com

I can’t find a photo of this red draft of the mural online to share with you. It’s tone is less than bountiful, with one of the semi-nude females in it being abducted by a menacing figure–something you don’t see in the final mural. Standing there in the belly of the Capitol I felt it was the perfect haunted moment for the evening symbolizing the protest of these free speech activists- rough, hidden, necessary- A disturbing treasure.

Guns vs. Public Free Speech

Before the Assembly began their session, we sang Solidarity Forever, Which side are you on, and We shall overcome as well as other songs I am pretty sure we would not have known if it were not for the Solidarity Sing Along group. A woman to my right had brought along 3 toy guns which she displayed just past the gallery railing. When a page asked her to please remove them so they wouldn’t accidentally fall down, she said very loudly, “You want me to remove my guns?!” and we all laughed.

The camera action also coincided with the enactment of a conceal carry law in Wisconsin which Scott Walker’s administrative rule allows even in the Capitol building. The fact that guns are being given the red carpet but legal filming is cause for a citation is one more sign of Walker’s disregard for the rights of the public and the favor he curries with the players in his agenda.

Find more pics on my facebook page.

Footnote: Free speech activism in Madison, Wisconsin had historically been spearheaded by Ben Masel who passed away early this year from lung cancer. I think Jim Mueller’s remembrance of Ben Masel’s birthday kicked free speech actions at the Capitol into a higher gear.

More- Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Statement on Camera Arrests in Capitol Building

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Statement on Camera Arrests in Capitol Building

From WFIC

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is deeply concerned about the arrests of citizens for filming the Wisconsin Legislature, a right expressly afforded by the state’s Open Meetings Law.

“These arrests appear to violate the spirit and the letter of the Open Meetings Law which, ironically enough, was passed by the Wisconsin state Legislature,” said Bill Lueders, Council president. “We see no reason that exercising a right guaranteed by state law should lead to people being issued citations or hauled off to jail.”

According to a report published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a dozen protesters were arrested Tuesday for filming and holding up signs in the Assembly gallery. Nine were issued citations for disorderly conduct, while three were jailed for bail jumping, the paper reported. The bail-jumping arrests occurred because the three were previously cited for filming the Legislature and released on condition that they obey state administrative rules.

In June, police intervened to stop a young man from videotaping a committee meeting. According to an account by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe, who witnessed this event, “The man was causing no disturbance; in fact, he said not a word. But still his behavior could not be tolerated. Not one, not two, not three but four uniformed and armed police officers were summoned to handle this breach of peace.”

Additionally, there were incidents in September and again last week in which protesters have been removed from the Legislature and cited because they were silently filming the proceedings.
Section 19.90 of the state’s Open Meetings Law, which dates to 1977, states in its entirety: “Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.”

“Just because the Legislature can violate the Open Meetings Law doesn’t mean it should,” said Lueders, referring to the Supreme Court ruling this June that essentially exempted the state Legislature from the Open Meetings Law. “This is a law that has served the state well, helping to build trust between government officials and the governed. It deserves more respect.”

The Legislature has cited its own rules, specifically Assembly Rule 26, as prohibiting filming from the gallery. Protesters have received citations that cite Department of Administration administrative codes. The Council questions whether these rules should be used to bar conduct expressly protected by the Open Meetings Law.
Said Lueders, “We call on the state Legislature, as well as the Department of Administration and the Capitol police, to obey the law in place for all other state and local governmental bodies and allow citizens to unobtrusively film legislative proceedings.”

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is a statewide group that works to protect public access to meetings and records. Its sponsor organizations include the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the Wisconsin Associated Press, Wisconsin News Photographers and the Society of Professional Journalists

More on this topic at A day without rights in the Wisconsin Assembly

For ongoing updates on this situation, like SSWIDTMS on facebook