Dane County Sheriff's Office
Rothschild was charged with "resisting or obstructing" arrest with a court date of Sept. 23.
First it was the diehards, then a couple of clerics. Now it's journalists and politicians being arrested in the recent crackdown at the Capitol. Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, and Madison Ald. Mark Clear were arrested Thursday at the Solidarity Sing Along.
Rothschild says he goes down to the Capitol about three times a week to report on the noontime sing-along, which protests Gov. Scott Walker's policies. He did nothing different on Thursday. He says he recorded the crowd count -- about 160 -- in his reporter's notebook, made note of the signs people were carrying, interviewed participants and took pictures.
When Rothschild saw that Bonnie Block, a friend and member of the Raging Grannies singing group, was being arrested, he started to take pictures of the officers making the arrest. He says he tried to take a picture of Block as she entered the elevator but was told by police officers to stand back. Rothschild, who has published his own account about the arrest, says he identified himself as a journalist but was told to leave the area.
Rothschild says when he told the officers he had a right to be there, one grabbed his arm and told him he was being charged with obstruction.
"I didn't get close to the officers," he says. "I didn't get in their face when we walked down the hall. I was just trying to get in position to take a decent picture."
Rothschild was brought in handcuffs to the basement offices of the Capitol Police and then transferred to Dane County jail in a squad car. He was fingerprinted, frisked and photographed for a mug shot. He then spent just under 90 minutes in a holding cell with three other inmates.
Rothschild was charged with "resisting or obstructing" arrest with a court date of Sept. 23. He says he will plead not guilty on the basis of the First Amendment. He was previously arrested at the Capitol in November 2011 for using a camera in the Assembly gallery.
Clear could not be reached for comment, but his colleague, Ald. Lisa Subeck, was with him when he was arrested. Subeck, who works downtown and regularly attends the protest, says she, Clear and Ald. Marsha Rummel "had pretty much just gotten there" when the police approached.
"Officers came up, and Marsha and I got out of the way because we thought they wanted to get through," says Subeck. Instead, they turned and arrested Clear.
Subeck says the latest police crackdown, which began on July 24, appears to be escalating.
"They're arresting more and more people," Subeck says. "I don't know if it's because they're getting more efficient at it or if they're trying to intimidate people."
Capitol police officers had been threatening observers, including Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Middleton), with arrest just for watching the sing-along but the Department of Administration, which oversees the police, later said that "Observers will not receive citations."
Subeck says she doesn't usually sing, but is not sure what she'd do if police threaten to arrest her. "I would have a very hard time saying 'Okay I'll leave,' knowing that all those folks are standing up for my rights."
No one could be reached at the Department of Administration communications office for comment.
Kristian Knutsen contributed to this report.