Rep. Sondy Pope "worries about the impression visitors will take away of Wisconsin" when they observe the Capitol Police arresting protesters ("Observing Solidarity Sing Along Illegal?," 8/9/2013). She "knows there are tourists here. What must they think of this state?"
As the host for some out-of-state visitors last summer, I was embarrassed by the behavior of the protesters when we unfortunately visited the Capitol just before the end of the noon hour. What did my guests think? They thought Madison has too many screamers. Too many haters. Too many who refuse to accept the simple fact that they lost an election (actually a bunch of elections).
I came here from Austin, which is as much a liberal island in a sea of conservatism as Madison. But the progressives in Austin are tolerant. They are well spoken, nonvenomous and, most important, rational. They do not scream, cry or moan. They maintain their principles and reevaluate how to best present their arguments to the voters in the next election. The Rotunda group is screaming to the choir.
With regard to arrests at the Solidarity Sing Along, I wish to point out something I've not seen reported in the media. A lot of people have the mistaken impression that warnings to observers (and the arrests of observers such as Dominic Salvia -- a complete nonparticipant and member of the media who, as the ACLU noted, was simply reporting on the protest for his radio show) were merely an error in execution on the part of the Capitol Police (an error that we're told they've now corrected). Very few people seem to realize that it's actually part of the new "law" -- the Administrative Code 2.14 (2)(vm) emergency rule -- which explicitly states that "spectators" are subject to arrest.
This goes to one heart of the problem with the permit rules implemented by Walker -- proscribing activities (such as observing an event) protected by the First Amendment. The Department of Administration now says that observers will not be arrested. Unless they actually take "spectators" out of the rule, don't fall for their PR.
I am outraged at Capitol Police for cracking down not only on protesters, but also on public officials like state Rep. Sondy Pope, threatening her with arrest for observing the protest. She is out there to represent her constituents. Spectators are not participants. All Gov. Scott Walker wants to do is clear the Capitol.