Many people were out-raged about an article published a couple of days ago about Republican Congressman Paul Ryan cracking a joke as a 71-year-old man was shoved to the ground by police officers for simply speaking out at a rotary club luncheon where Ryan was speaking on his “Pay to Play” budget plan. More information has since come out on who the senior citizen is, why he spoke out and the response of Congressman Ryan.
Tom Nielsen, originally from Denmark, immigrated to America in pursuit of his piece of the American Dream and became a citizen more than 50 years ago. He speaks with a slight Danish accent but has worked in America all his adult life, paying his share into the system. He is a retired union plumber and lives in the small town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Congressman Ryan is his representative and having heard rhetoric that demonized unions and speaks of his retirement benefits as “entitlements”, Neilsen decided to go listen to Ryan himself. The only public appearance Ryan had scheduled in August was a luncheon at a rotary club in Greenfield, so Tom bought a ticket for the luncheon and went to hear for himself what his representative has to say.
What he saw at the luncheon was very different from what he expected. Two people found themselves under arrest for speaking out at the luncheon and Tom watched in dismay as 20 others were forcefully escorted out.
Tom watched as protestors were removed and listened to Ryan make smart remarks about the protesters such as, “We can get her a “to go” bag!” and “What’s unique and exciting about this is that the Rotarians got 15 bucks out of them!”
Tom decided to speak up when he heard the Congressman use the word “entitlements” referring to his hard-earned benefits despite the fact that he had a broken clavicle from a recent automobile accident.
Tom stated later to a reporter, “I’ve got a burr under my saddle blanket, and Paul Ryan put it there!”
Tom found himself forced to the ground by the hired officers who paid no heed as he howled in pain due to his broken clavicle. Tom maintained that he informed police officers repeated that he was not fighting with them and that he had a broken shoulder. He was still man-handled to the ground where he howled with pain from the assault upon his broken clavicle.
A reporter from the Daily Kos who covered the story last fall called Representative Ryan’s office and eventually received an email back addressing his questions about the arrests. Their response to Tom’s arrest was to refer to Greenfield Interim Police Chief Brad Wentlandt statement:
“The event was a private function, held on private property… The Whitnall Rotary was the host and in control of the banquet hall, thereby having the right to allow entry, refuse entry or demand that anyone be removed who they did not want there….We had a procedure in place where a member of the rotary — the property ‘owners’ for the event — would ask the unruly person to sit down and be quiet,” Wentlandt said. “If the person refused, then law enforcement would step in and make the same request. If the person continued to refuse, they were escorted out. If they did not resist, they were escorted to the doors and off the property. If they continued their behavior or resisted, they were arrested.”
Apparently this procedure was not followed with Mr. Neilsen. The email contained no apology from Congressman Ryan either for the pain inflicted upon Mr. Neilsen nor for the joke he cracked while Mr. Neilsen was being ousted from the luncheon.