Last night a judge ordered the Wisconsin Capitol building closed during non-work hours creating an exodus as protesters left the building, ending a 17-day occupation. Governor Scott Walker has instituted draconian security checkpoints that were detailed in great detail HERE.
[T]oday when I went to the capitol to visit my representative, Janis Ringhand, and discuss my concerns about the governor’s proposed budget and its effects on natural resources, I was treated like a common criminal. Instead of walking freely through the capitol building, I was subjected to the myriad humiliations of a woman visiting her husband in federal prison. I was forced to empty my pockets of every dime, expose all my belongings to the scrutiny of a line of officers, even take off my coat so that I could be security-wanded by an officer. I could not walk through the building unless I was accompanied by both a staffer and a police officer, every single step of the way to my representative’s office. I was told that I would not be allowed to use the restroom without a police officer in attendence. I had to pass inspection before at least 30 officers, lined up both outside and inside the King Street entrance.
How much time did this humiliating process waste? At least 45 minutes of my time. At least 30 minutes of the staffer’s time. Untold hours of the police officer’s time.
These over-the-top measures led to what could have been a serious situation when firefighters responded to a call to the Capitol building Tuesday and were denied entrance by security guards.
Security is so restrictive at the state Capitol that firefighters were denied access to the building during an emergency call Tuesday, one of the firefighters said Thursday.
Dave Trainor, a Madison firefighter, said he was part of a crew dispatched to the Capitol on a call that someone was trapped in an elevator. Firefighters were denied access at one of the building’s entrances that is being guarded by police.
Firefighters then had to make their way through a crowd of protesters outside the building and drive their 100-foot ladder truck to the other side of the Capitol to get inside.
Among protesters at the Capitol have been firefighters in their gear. But Trainor said he did not believe police officers would have mistaken the crew for protesters because they were hauling equipment, carrying radios and had arrived in a firetruck.
“They don’t just let us drive those up to the Capitol for fun,” he said.
The irony is that the person trapped in the elevator was a police officer. The frightening part is that it could have been someone having a seizure. Or a heart attack. Or any number of other calamities that required swift medical response.
And yesterday, live ammunition was found “scattered at several locations outside the Capitol” building in Madison as well as in the stairwells and restrooms of the nearby City-County Building. Given that we now know that tea party types have planned to disrupt the protest in Madison pretending to be union members and that the Governor himself considered bringing in fake protesters to stir up trouble, coupled with the absolutely peaceful nature of the 2+ week protest, one can fairly assume that the ammo was brought in an attempt to somehow discredit the protesters by anti-union conservatives. Or, perhaps, for some more sinister purpose.
Also yesterday, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate issued what can only be described as arrest warrants for the 14 Democrats who have refused to return to the Capitol, effectively preventing a vote on the bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from teachers and other public employees. Meanwhile, Governor Walker himself issued a statement saying he would retaliate against the protesters by laying off 1,500 workers unless the Democrats return. Retaliation is the only word to describe this since the financial concessions he has demanded of the unions have been agreed to and the collective bargaining ban is the only remaining piece he hasn’t gotten from them.
It is hostage-taking, pure and simple and it’s apparently the tactic du jour for Republicans these days.
One Republican in Wisconsin described this as “a classic overreach” earlier this week. That, I would suggest, is a complete understatement. This is a classic abuse of government power. A tea party Republican Governor, Scott Walker, a man who claims to be part of a movement of patriots dedicated to the preservation of the Constitution and to putting an end to government tyranny, is now responsible for one of the most blatant and offensive government interventions in American citizens’ rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly seen in this country in a long time. The astounding hypocrisy of Walker’s tea party membership has not been highlighted enough. The man is clearly on a mission to be seen as “the Governor who killed the unions” and he’s will to do anything to do so.
Even, it appears, if it means someone gets hurt.
UPDATE: Via MartyM in the comments at Daily Kos, Wisconsin Democratic Representative Nick Milroy was tackled as he tried to enter the Capitol building yesterday. You know, the building where he works?
Milroy was trying to get clothes from his office but police would not let him into the building. They tackled him as he tried to get past officers guarding a door. He was able to get the door open and struggled with policy [sic] before they took him to the ground.
This, folks, is what a police state looks like. Government tyranny by a tea party governor. Who woulda thunk it?
I’m just sayin’…
P.S. This blog entry was inspired by Daily Kos member bleeding heart. bleeding heart is part of the protest and unable to write Kos diaries at this time. In fact, she risks losing her “Trusted User” status at Daily Kos. If you are a Kossack, please go to this comment and “Recommend” bleeding heart’s comments there and beneath it so that she can retain their TU status. Thank you.