Wisconsin Wire: Police Try to Intimidate Protesters for Holding Signs

It has been a long struggle here in Wisconsin, and it has been on so many fronts. The front in which I have perhaps been most involved has been the First Amendment Rights civil disobedience front. My journey in this battle all started one day when two friends were told if they did not put their sign down or move it to the ground level they would be arrested. On this instance they complied, the video is here. I then spent the next week and a half looking for someone who was willing to hold a sign with me and potentially get arrested knowing that without the First Amendment we have nothing, and that our First Amendment rights are being violated. Apparently, I didn’t talk to the right people but the activist network in Madison was not as organized and developed back then.

One day, out of the blue, I got a Facebook message from a disabled veteran in Florida who used to live in Madison named, Valerie Walasek. She said she was inspired to come back and was willing to do whatever it took to help make change. She said she was even willing to get arrested for our rights – the same ones she swore to protect when joining the military. So the next day she flew in and we held a sign. All we got was a ticket, there was no arrest on this occasion. When I posted the first video and people were seeing that a disabled veteran and myself were getting tickets for silently holding a protest sign just fifteen feet above the allowed height, they were shocked. Word got around to local constitutional rights groups and activist-hero, Ben Masel, showed up the next day. Unfortunately, this was his last action at the Capitol as he passed away a couple of months later, video here. No tickets were received that day. Over the following days, however, more and more people would join Valerie and I.

Then came the Sargent boys who knew what was going on, and decided to take a stand. These may be kids by physical years, but I was there and spoke to them, they knew what was going on and wanted to take a stand. The press finally decided to cover the infringement and, suddenly, it became a well-known issue. Mike Huebsch, the Secretary of the Department of Administration (or Scott Walker’s go-to guy) and Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs’ boss, decided to allow free speech and there was no longer a problem with holding a sign anywhere in the rotunda. We did have problems in committee meetings, and still do with galleries; but the rotunda and committee meetings we have won for free speech and had not seen many power grabs until today.

Today, I went to the Solidarity Sing Along, like I normally do, at noon in the Capitol Rotunda every weekday. As had happened every day for at least a couple of months, it is not uncommon for a group of protesters to hold a banner on the second floor. No one has had any problems, until now. You see the unions, represented by Peg Lautenschlager, cut a settlement with Mike Huebsch that did not allow free speech on the second floor. Just because it was in their settlement does not make it constitutional. I was on the first floor and saw police talking to some people, so I went up to the second floor. There I was told that the police will not allow signs on the second floor per order of Chief Tubbs. So I grabbed myself a banner and then Chief Tubbs came over. He started yelling that we need to put our signs down, then left.

He came back momentarily and I offered to read him the First Amendment out of my pocket constitution. But he just yelled, “shut up I’m not talking to you right now!” He then proceeded to say that we can hold our signs until 1 PM today and not at all tomorrow. Jason Huberty then asked, “what happens if we fail to comply?” Chief Tubbs said something along the lines of ‘then I’ll make you pay’. This is common police intimidation but it will not work on us. We must protect our First Amendment rights, as an injustice to one is an injustice to all. We know how power-grabs work: they grab low and keep going higher and higher until a good compromise is a medium violation of rights. We can’t have any violation of rights. We must stop this from the start, and send a clear message. I am asking all who are willing and able to join us as we fight this violation of rights, and show them that this type of conduct will not be tolerated. Tomorrow, the 18th of August from noon to 1 pm please join us in the rotunda. For those that cannot join us, please spread the word. Exposure is power. SOLIDARITY!


Jeremy Ryan

Executive Director

Defending Wisconsin PAC

[email protected]

Note: 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. Through videos and writings he has informed hundreds of thousands of people of what was going on at the Wisconsin State Capitol once the mainstream media had mostly abandoned the protests. His full-time activism is completely funded by the people. If you would like to help out please click here.

Edited By: Alexis Atherton