Today was a joyous day for Wisconsin. After over a year and a half of one party control in all of the branches of government, the tides finally turned. The event, of course, was the Senate session in which State Senator John Lehman was officially sworn in giving Democrats the majority in this one house. You could tell who everyone was today. Republicans and their staffers had a rather disheartened look. Indeed, what started as a majority that was four votes up turned into a minority, one vote down. It is undeniable that this was due to public backlash. In fact the only gains and losses to take place were brought about by recalls. The Democrats, on the other hand seemed happy. At the end of the session, the new Majority Leader Mark Miller invited everyone into the Senate Parlor for drinks and snacks.
Normally, when someone is losing their power, especially when due to their own actions they tone down power grabs and moves that typically upset people. The Wisconsin Republicans, however, had a different plan. Throughout the battle in Wisconsin we have been accustomed to the Republicans in power ignoring the Constitution. As you may recall, back in March of 2011 at the height of the protests these were the people that locked the Wisconsin State Capitol down to stop public demonstration. These were also the people who said you couldn’t protest on the first floor, a policy that has since been overturned. Then there was that time they said that you couldn’t film committee meetings or hold a sign in them. This policy was also axed on constitutional basis following a series of arrests.
Then came the galleries. In Wisconsin the State Constitution demands that the doors of the legislature remain open. What this means is that the state’s founders took importance in citizens being able to take part in meetings. For this reason there is a gallery above both the Senate and Assembly floors that is open to the public and must remain open to the public. The Republican leadership, however, took it upon themselves to enforce an unconstitutional “rule” that has never before been enforced. I am talking about the gallery rule prohibiting signs and filming in both galleries. In both houses Democrats have made efforts to have this policy removed. In both houses they have been shot down by Republican leadership.
This put the fight in the people’s hands and fight it we did. Out of my thirty four arrests over this past year and a half (thirty two of which were dismissed), sixteen were for filming in the galleries, five in the Senate. But today the Senate transferred control. Surely, I thought, the Republicans would give up their unconstitutional power grab in what was literally their final minutes in power. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I pulled out my camera and began filming, hoping to catch the historical moment. I was confronted and told I was unable to film to which I responded that it was unconstitutional to say so. Minutes later the police had my arm and I was being removed. The ordeal can be caught here:
You will notice in this video a common tactic. This is where they get you out of the room then tell you that you are banned from the room but will not be arrested (contradictory to them telling you that you are arrested prior to you leaving the room). This makes it so that there is very little trail of the arrest. It is a win-win for the police. They don’t need to file a report, they don’t need to document their dismissal of the constitution, and they don’t need to take the time to write a report. As you will notice, I then re-entered the gallery. This is not because I get a thrill out of being arrested. This is simply because I need to know if they really think this is worth arresting someone. I need to see how far they will go. And I need something to fight. All sixteen tickets thus far for filming in the gallery have been dismissed. But something else stands out, this perhaps even more concerning. It is found on this video:
In the beginning of this video I am being hauled into the elevator, in handcuffs, as the police forcefully push everyone away from me. Keep in mind that there has never been a violent incident with police nor have protesters ever forcefully entered an elevator. But in a society where police force is no longer a thing that must be thought about, apparently pushing is fine in any occasion. It goes further though, in the beginning of the video you see Mitch Steingraber pushing Craig Spaulding, one of the “Capitol Regulars” or common protesters. To me it is an honor to be amongst this group, although the police seem to find it to be shameful. Craig is a rather large man who could, if he wanted to, take Mitch down in an instant. He doesn’t though, but at least Mitch chose someone to push who could take it. But then around 11 seconds he turns to another victim, Jeri, who is an older lady and not at all bulky like Craig. Pushing Craig was bad enough, but pushing an older lady is both cowardly and deplorable.
Please call Mark Miller, the new Senate Majority Leader at 608-266-9170 and request that he end this unconstitutional policy immediately. This was the first arrest under Democrat control, we can help make it the last. In the end I got another $263.50 ticket which will no doubt be dismissed. The process is the punishment however as the Dane County District Attorney co-ordinates with the Capitol Police to make sure that every ticket that they cannot prosecute they drag out in multiple court dates and harassing signature bonds that make further protesting a two day minimum jail stay. But this is Wisconsin and we will not let them bring us down. We will continue fighting.
One day longer! One day stronger!
Segway Jeremy Ryan has become a full-time member of the protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Formerly a businessman, he gave up his business to join the fight for the middle class in the State of Wisconsin. He rides a Segway due to a heart condition. Through videos and writings he has informed hundreds of thousands of people about what was going on at the Wisconsin State Capitol once the mainstream media had mostly abandoned the protests. He has been arrested 33 times mainly for silently filming or holding up a sign in the Capitol.