FDL: Capitol Police Tackle, Arrest Members of the Press

June 7, 2011
David Dayen

Five people were arrested in Madison, Wisconsin at the Capitol yesterday, amid a march of thousands led by former Sen. Russ Feingold.

Protesters created a Walkerville tent city outside the state Capitol building in Madison, to protest budget cuts which could be enacted as early as this week. That budget bill may also include the anti-union provisions which passed but then got tied up in a court challenge over the procedures used to pass them.

The Walkerville project is more organized than the spontaneous protests that erupted in February when state Republicans tried to pass the anti-union provisions the first time. Organizers have a permit for Walkerville until June 20. Each day has a theme. It’s more of a presence than an organic outpouring of dissent.

But some protesters still want to enter the Capitol. Under the law, they have that right. The state ACLU successfully sued the Department of Administration to return the access policies to allow for a relatively open Capitol building. Yet yesterday, people were arrested in the Capitol building. Security personnel in the building started padlocking the doors, against the accepted standards mandated under court order, and when filmmakers started shooting that, the police turned their attention to them. These filmmakers were credentialed members of the press who have been capturing footage in Wisconsin for many weeks.

Last week at a Joint Finance Committee meeting, protesters engaged in civil disobedience and were carried out of the room. But this case looks to be much more sinister. Police officers in the Capitol just didn’t want video evidence of them locking the doors. So they tackled and arrested reporters, credentialed press.

Walkerville is meant to be a peaceful protest, but given how security is clearly on a knife’s edge, it could easily get out of hand.