State Rep. Chris Taylor
Press Release

Capitol Police unlawfully arrest peaceful singers

This afternoon, the Wisconsin Capitol Police issued approximately 40 citations resulting from a peaceful gathering in the Capitol rotunda, according to observers.

By - Jul 24th, 2013 02:52 pm

MADISON –This afternoon, the Wisconsin Capitol Police issued approximately 40 citations resulting from a peaceful gathering in the Capitol rotunda, according to observers. Before the gathering began, police placed a sign in the center of the rotunda that read “We are declaring this an unlawful event. Please move your group outside or disperse immediately. If you do not, each participant is subject to arrest.” The heightened police presence drew a significant crowd of Capitol employees, tourists and reporters.  Below is Rep. Taylor’s statement on today’s crackdown:

“For several years, a small group of people have gathered daily at noon in the Capitol rotunda to peacefully sing songs. Each is expressing their right to free speech and their right to petition their government. As referenced  by Judge William Conley in his recent decision striking down the current Capitol permit scheme advanced by the Walker Administration, the Capitol rotunda is a public forum and ‘functions, both literally and symbolically as a city center and is fully utilized as a public space to which all have claim’ (Kissick v. Huebsch at 1).  As such, any limitation on a person’s free speech rights in a public forum has to be substantially related to a state interest.

“Today, dozens of Capitol police officers stormed the Capitol rotunda, handcuffing and arresting peaceful singers. These singers are neither dangerous nor disruptive. According to testimony given in the Kissick case by the Capitol police themselves, the singers’ presence has never necessitated any additional police resources. Simply put, these singers were arrested for exercising their First Amendment free speech rights.

“Chief Erwin and Governor Scott Walker’s militant handling of the daily peaceful singing has escalated this situation unnecessarily. The Capitol rotunda would have been much safer today had Governor Walker given Chief Erwin a little red rubber ball to play with in the corner instead of control of the entire police force. Chief Erwin is determined to arrest peaceful civilians, some of whom were there simply to take pictures. Chief Erwin’s actions are endangering his officers and the public. This is the kind of heavy handed police government you would expect to see in a Third World country, not here in Wisconsin. It must stop.”

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