Bob Syring (left) and Jerry McDonough (right) filed some 15,000 complaints with the Capitol Police, alleging officers engaged in harassment and other misconduct in issuing about 250 citations to protesters.
Capitol protesters are no longer just contesting the tickets they've received for participating in the Solidarity Sing Along. They're filing their own complaints against the Capitol Police officers who wrote the tickets.
On Tuesday, Bob Syring and Jerry McDonough filed some 15,000 complaints with the Capitol Police, alleging officers engaged in harassment and other misconduct in issuing about 250 citations to protesters between July 24, 2013, and Sept. 6.
"I hope this gives them pause to think what they did was wrong," says McDonough.
Syring says they are filing many complaints from third parties -- that is, complainants who did not necessarily witness the arrest but are "aware of what has gone on."
"Most have either participated in the sing-along or have been ticketed," Syring adds. "But there are also some from citizens who are aware of the tickets issued and believe they are inappropriate."
Syring says he generated a database of people who object to these arrests and one with information from police reports of the citations.
McDonough, who works in information technology for Dane County, and Syring, a county social worker, say they were able to merge the data relatively easily to generate the individual complaints. They produced them on a high-volume printer borrowed from AFSCME Council 24, and then complainants signed each form individually.
Despite the volume of complaints, Syring and McDonough say Capitol Police will have to respond to them all. "That's the law," says Syring.
Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, did not respond to an email requesting comment on the complaints and an explanation on how complaints are processed by the Capitol Police.
McDonough and Syring say they are filing these complaints because the tickets issued to protesters for not having a permit are unlawful.
"We are using the ground floor of the Rotunda exactly as it was designed," says McDonough. "When the Capitol burned down and [Robert] La Follette was governor, he worked with an architect to design the ground floor of the Rotunda for events and citizen participation for things that are too loud to hold in offices or on the Assembly floor."
McDonough says the sing-along gathers from noon to 1 p.m., when tours are suspended for the lunch hour. "We're very respectful. That is what incenses me. This whole thing is just about stopping dissent.
"I feel so strongly that these complaints are a way to express that," he adds. "Since our voices are being help back we can use the process that exists."
Individuals have been gathering daily at the Capitol since March 11, 2011, to sing pro-union songs in protest of Gov. Scott Walker's policies. Capitol Police officers have issued hundreds of citations to protesters since beginning to enforce, in September 2012, new permitting restrictions put in place by the DOA. The rules adopted by the state in November 2011 required groups of four or more to obtain a permit to gather at the Capitol.
In October 2013, the Department of Administration and the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation signed a settlement on a federal lawsuit involving these permitting requirements. Under the settlement, groups like the Solidarity Sing Along need to give notice, rather than obtain a permit, to gather at the Capitol.
Some of the complaints filed Tuesday with the Capitol Police charge that the arrests made under the DOA's original permitting restrictions are a violation of the First, Fourth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Articles 1 and 11 of the Wisconsin Constitution. For instance, one complaint charges that the Aug. 1, 2013, arrest of Jason Huberty -- who was handcuffed and searched -- was done to "degrade and intimidate" Huberty, a frequent participant in the sing-along.
"This response to citizens who pose no risk is unprofessional, improper and harassing of citizens,'" the complaint reads.