Wisconsin Pays $75,000 Price For Denying First Amendment Rights


Dominic Salvia being arrested in 2013.   Credit: The Devil’s Advocates Radio

I was most heartened to learn that a local radio host will receive a legal settlement of $75,000 following a lawsuit which was filed against Gov. Scott Walker’s administration for being arrested in 2013 while covering the arrests of protesters at the state Capitol.

Dominic Salvia, co-host of Devil’s Advocates Radio Show, will be paid the money as part of an out-of-court settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit.  The talk show host filed the legal challenge in 2014 against three Capitol Police officers who handcuffed and ticketed him during the July 2013 mass arrests of singing protesters.

There is no doubt that a most unseemly policy was being allowed to be carried out at the statehouse which sought to undermine protesters who felt strongly about Walker’s anti-union policies.  In addition there was ample evidence to show a court that in the case of Salvia constitutional safeguards for the press to do their job were being violated.

We all can agree that the circumstances at the Capital during ACT 10 were tense, messy, and at times out of control.  That goes for everyone from Assembly Republicans who convened their floor session a few minutes before its scheduled start and moved Walker’s bill toward final passage before members from the other side of the aisle could enter the chamber, to Democrats who shouted at the GOP while on the floor in February 2011.   The Assembly floor should be a place of process and decorum.

There were plenty of instances when this state did not present itself well to the nation.  But I think the lowest image we broadcast to the rest of the county was the attempts to limit free expression of opposing views.

It was awful to know there was a policy fostered to deny citizens access to the statehouse so to register their complaints–though loud and ill-timed as they may have been–or to have members of the press curtailed as they sought to cover the events in the halls of power.  It all was simply unfathomable to ones who care about constitutional safeguards.

Therefore there was no other outcome for Salvia–and more importantly for the process of democracy–than to have this legal victory.

I hope never again will there be such a flagrant disregard for the rights of people to convey their thoughts to elected officials or have members of the press cover the news.  Let this is a lesson learned!

7 thoughts on “Wisconsin Pays $75,000 Price For Denying First Amendment Rights

  1. I wonder how much it will ultimately cost WI taxpayers to pay for all settlements that will likely be awarded to members of the Wisconsin Singers once this latest First Amendment misadventure is disposed of, and I wonder how much it would cost WI taxpayers if all failed and/or ill-advised and/or illegal conservative-Teapublican policy and program initiatives (think the rail fund refusal and expanded health care program participation, e.g.) will cost in dollars-and-cents.

  2. A class-action suit seems to be in the offing and it will be costly. For a conservative governor who claims to care about keeping the cost of government low he has a very unique way of proving it.

  3. I dunno, seems to me that the beleaguered taxpayers of Wisconsin shouldn’t be left holding the bag for this, since ONCE AGAIN none of us asked for it. Why not have the architects of this obviously illegal action pick up the tab for their own arrogance?

  4. I hear you, but for me the “democracy” part gets called into question when lawmakers keep passing made-up “laws” with no public input. There’s a website called We The Irrelevant that documents hundreds of instances of such abusive behavior from the current administration.

  5. We agree on the way the Walker team has allowed for many bills to be passed that run counter to constitutional law. When taxpayers needs to pay for legal teams to defend such efforts, and also to pay a cash settlement as in the case of this post, then for me the next step in democracy is holding those accountable at election time. That is when we get our revenge.

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