In more than three weeks of historic, round-the-clock protests at the Capitol involving hundreds of thousands of people, one thing has stood out: They have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
In a news conference last week, Mike Huebsch, secretary of the Department of Administration, praised police and protesters alike, adding, "It's indicative of the fact that we can strongly disagree and not be disagreeable."
But to the Wisconsin Republican Party, this is all a big cover-up. There is violence in Madison, and you'd better keep the kids and grandma away from those unruly Capitol mobs, lest they turn their drumsticks into clubs.
Mark Jefferson, head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, sent out a fundraising letter to supporters in late February, writing, "Don't be fooled by the media hype. These protests are anything but peaceful."
What insidious things have been happening that the liberal media have either not noticed or refused to cover? "Inside the Capitol, Republicans have been spit on, pushed around and verbally attacked," Jefferson wrote. "Most legislators can no longer move around without a police escort, and threats of violence have become commonplace."
How can a person fight back against these unruly mobs? Jefferson suggests "a donation of $200, $500 or even $1,000 to the Majority GOP Conduit." Think of it as protection money.
Jefferson did not return numerous calls for details about his claims. But they are news to Charles Tubbs, chief of the Capitol Police. Asked about these purported threats to legislators, Tubbs says, "I don't currently know of anything."
No one has provided any substantiation for Jefferson's claim that "most legislators" are using police escorts, or that threats of violence are "commonplace," or that Republicans are being spit on. There was one well-publicized incident last week when protesters followed Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), shouting "shame" at him. But the situation was quickly defused, and Grothman later told the Capital Times he never felt threatened.
As of last Friday, there had been about 16 arrests, most for disorderly conduct. But Tubbs added that seven or eight of those were people who insisted on being arrested. Tubbs praised the protesters' behavior: "The cooperation has been unbelievable."
Huebsch also didn't know of any harassment toward legislators. "If there is harassment, for the most part, you can find it out on YouTube before I could tell you."
Adds Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison), "Every law enforcement agency has said these are peaceful protests with no incidence of violence." She calls Jefferson's fundraising screed an attempt "to demonize the nurses, firefighters and cops who have been rallying peacefully for their rights."