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Wisconsin State Capitol Security Needs To Be Scaled Back

May 15, 2011

When elected members of the Wisconsin State Legislature resort to this amount of excessive security they might need to take a group retreat and ponder if they are indeed doing the people’s business?

I do not recall security at the Wisconsin State Capitol being as excessive following the events of 9/11, as it has been since Governor Walker proposed curtailing collective bargaining earlier this year.  I was not sure if I should be angry or sad on Saturday while watching the grim-faced officers at one of the two open entrances.  

Regardless of how I felt it was clear that there was a dramatic flair being put forth to somehow continue to insinuate that labor ‘thugs’ had bad intentions, and only the ever-vigilant law officers could protect the building and all inside.  There clearly is a desire to convey a political message with the use of these officers that far exceeds the actual results of their work. 

One needs to ask how much political theater is enough at a time when budget shortfalls make almost every issue of the newspaper.  How much more do taxpayers need to spend in order for Governor Walker’s administration to feel that they have made their point? 

We all get it.  Republicans think labor unions are comprised of violent people who are out to create mayhem.  The lack of any such violence, however, underscores the reason the over-reach by the Wisconsin Department of Administration needs to be stopped.  

Even when tens-of-thousands gathered at the Capitol there was nothing more serious than full-throated expressions of outrage.  All the protesting that took place was peaceful.   It was only when attempts were made to curtail entrances that some pushed and became unruly.

As I watched my fellow citizens enter the statehouse Saturday, all who looked as lethal as I do, I wondered how law enforcement would handle the children who entered the building.  Could they do their work and not smile at the absurdity of making a kid feel like they were just shy of a police lineup? 

What were the officers thinking the 8-year-old looking African-American girl was bringing into the statehouse?  Radioactive M&M’s?  Is that why they not only had her walk through a metal detector, but then pulled her aside to be wanded?  Following her standing with arms outstretched she was then allowed to walk into her Capitol.   Are they sure she should not be followed and monitored as she laid on her back to look up at the dome in the center of the building?

What I saw again on Saturday offends me!

Over and over the parade took place as scores of taxpayers went through the charade just in order to make entrance to their statehouse.  I realize this has been happening every day for many weeks, but to again see this up close makes me wonder how anyone thinks this is logical.  More importantly, who will fight to bring this to an end?

At the north entrance many years ago was the office I temporarily worked in while our wing of the Capitol was undergoing remodeling.  People came in and out, the halls were alive with lobbyists, school groups, and fellow staffers.  There was accessibility and freedom of movement.   Now there is a law enforcement set-up that makes me wonder just what type of nefarious plot is hoping to be caught.    As I stood there Saturday I pondered the changes that have taken place and wondered how far can we slip into this wave of needless hysteria.

That this is being done for political reasons, as opposed to sound security purposes, should alarm and anger us.  If there is something to be frightened over, this hyped-up security for political purposes would be it!

  1. May 17, 2011 11:47 AM

    Andy, you are so right about the police. I quizzed the officers blocking the door on March 1. I thought we established long ago that there is no immunity from following an illegal order. When will they draw the line, when they are ordered to fire on us? I wonder. I’m sorry, but I can not support a police force that follows orders at a whim.

  2. Andy Olsen permalink
    May 16, 2011 4:01 PM

    Good job, Deke. You are right, this is an outrage and I like this paragraph the best:

    “One needs to ask how much political theater is enough at a time when budget shortfalls make almost every issue of the newspaper. How much more do taxpayers need to spend in order for Governor Walker’s administration to feel that they have made their point? ”

    Yup. The security is not about public safety but about restricting the ability of Walker opponents to exercise their free speech and assembly rights. And, you’re right, they also want to paint their opponents as “thugs” and violent.

    As far as the police and troopers who carry out the unconstitutional orders, I will depart from most and say they need to think about what they are doing. One hopes there is some line where they refuse to follow unconstitutional orders. Where is it? And if we don’t challenge them, will they even ask the question?

  3. May 16, 2011 1:48 PM

    This is absolutely true. The worst part about it is the poor school students, teachers, and chaperones – there are hundreds a day – that have to go through the same complete screening process as everyone else. Meanwhile, GOP lobbyists breeze through.

  4. Mitch permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:15 AM

    Right after 9/11, police officers were stationed at the doors to ask people to open their coats before they came in the building. I guess they were checking for bombs (understandable at the time), but after a week or two, the checkpoints were removed and the Capitol was fully open.

    Now we seem to be under permanent lockdown.

    I always admired the way the Capitol was open from every direction; I saw that openness as a symbol of the idea that Wisconsin’s government belonged to its people, and that they had a right to know what’s going on.

    Walker & co. don’t like that idea, so they are killing its symbol.

  5. Sarah Wagner permalink
    May 15, 2011 10:27 PM

    Thank you for this article. I was irate on March 1 and I am still irate. Why and how is the DOA still getting away with this? Wasn’t there a restraining order on March 1? I know there is a law suit pending, but why aren’t there 10,000 law suits?

  6. May 15, 2011 10:01 PM


    Thanks…and I was there on the ground floor looking up at you as you stood on the first floor over the ‘railing’ giving the speech. Some handclaps at the end…that was my friends and I saying “Thank You!”

    Thanks also for posting the speech here….and for being a reader of this blog.



  7. Thomas Krajewski permalink
    May 15, 2011 8:46 PM

    Sorry I missed you. Gave this speech Saturday afternoon.
    Good Afternoon

    Welcome to your house. Welcome to Wisconsin’s Capitol Rotunda –

    I dedicate today’s talk to Ben Masel has left this world.
    But Ben still speaks volumes, if we will only listen.

    I also dedicate this talk to the school teachers and other public employees that will retire this year. For them I have a few words from Dylan Thomas:

    Do not go _____ gentle ______into that ____good night,
    Old age should burn ______ and rave ______at close of day;
    Rage, rage _____against the dying _______of the light.

    As Wisconsin public employees retire in record numbers, I hope they will rage, rage, rage against not the dying of the light but the murder of the light.

    I ask for 3 minutes of your time to give a political talk.

    Enjoy your house, use your house, learn from your house.

    One thing you may learn and understand today is:
    DEMOCRACY is Messy.

    It is so messy that it reminds me of Winston Churchill who said. “Democracy is a terrible form of government – except – when compared to all others.“

    Before you leave leave the Capitol please take some time to come up to the 1st FLOOR – it is a protected free speech area.

    Understand that if you are here on the first floor with a political sign or making a speech –
    you are subject to being ticketed or issued a citation for exercising your free speech rights.

    The notion that one can not have political speech on this floor is contrary to its very design. It is designed as a place to assemble and consult for the common good. 24 Doors invite people to this space designed for hundreds if not thousands. The natural non electric amplified sound system surely suggests that it is designed for free speech.

    Come up to the First Floor There are things to see.

    In the south we have a exact replica of the Liberty Bell that recalls the founding of our Democratic Republic, the USA

    In the west we have a Veteran’s Memorial
    in gratitude and thanksgiving
    for those who served to protect
    our Democratic Republic,
    our Constitution,
    and our bill of Rights

    Some wonder why I speak. – A simple answer – When one gives 3 years 6 months and 18 days to the cause of our Constitution our bill of rights – you tend to get committed.

    In the North we have our Wisconsin Constitution
    It is better than the U.S. Constitution
    You see our Wisconsin writers had 72 years of experience with the U.S. Constitution.
    Our Constitution is 163 years old – it is hard to read. But I hope we don’t stop reading it.

    2 Sections some of us think are important.
    Wisconsin Constitution

    SECTION 3. Free speech;
    Every person may freely speak,
    write and publish his sentiments on all subjects,
    being responsible for the abuse of that right,
    and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge
    the liberty of speech or of the press.

    SECTION 4. Right to assemble and petition.
    The right of the people to peaceably assemble,
    to consult for the common good,
    and to petition the government,
    or any department thereof,
    shall never be abridged.

    In the East we have the bust of Fighting Bob La Follette Member of Congress, Wisconsin Governor, US Senator .

    Behind the La Follette is our Governor’s Office and our Supreme Court.

    Old Bob has been dead for 86 years but if you could view his body today you would find that his bones are weeping.

    Bob La Follette was a Republican. Today, many would say he was a RINO Republican in name only. I have little doubt that in a recall election with our current Governor, La Follette who would win.

    You see Bob La Follette spent 40 years of his life fighting Lumber Barons, Corporations, Banks, and Railroads because they were running the state and he thought, like Lincoln before him, we should have a government of the people by the people and for the people.

    This Capitol building was built in the middle of that fight as a monument to that belief. Your House is 100 years old and never in the 100 years of your house have we been locked out like we were locked out two months ago and like we are restricted like we are today.

    There are 72 Doors to your house. They were made to bring people in so they could assemble, speak freely, and consult for the common good. Our Democratic Republic has 72 counties and 72 Doors to its house of Democracy. 72 Doors and 70 of them are locked. 70 are locked in spite of a court order that our house be open. And today the admin say it will listen to the National Guard rather than listen to orders from the Court.

    A simple tenet: Do not keep hundreds of thousands of people from their house because there may be a violation of the law. Let the people in; if one or two or twenty violate the law arrest them but do not lock out thousands because there might be a violation by one. Interstates.  Fear of the people is not good for business, Governor.

    Your house was built as a Temple of Democracy by people for the people. Not the corporations. La Follette won that fight. He drove the money changers out of the temple. But they have crept back in because we have been asleep. Wake up. Wake up.

    Now the last thing I point out to you are Justice and Liberty. It was two months ago that Justice and Liberty were brutally assaulted in the Senate Parlor. I was there that night. I was in the room. I am ashamed that I did not do more to stop it. Justice and Liberty were brutally assaulted by a gang of thugs, a gang of corporate goons. Justice and liberty were left for dead in the street.

    It is our job, It is our duty to lift Justice and Liberty up and nurse them back to health. Please join me in that effort.

  8. Sandra Jones permalink
    May 15, 2011 3:56 PM

    Everybody remembers how welcoming and open the capitol used to be. The Republicans are only hastening their own inevitable departure by turning it into a fort.

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