More citations issued in Capitol building
Sign holders told they need permit
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Capitol police have issued four citations to protesters holding signs in the Capitol without a permit.
The citations on Thursday come after eight were cited on Wednesday for the same offense. One of the four on Thursday was also cited for resisting arrest.
One man, Jason Huberty, was both cited and taken to jail on Thursday after he returned to the Capitol and held up a sign a second time, police said.
“It’s pretty outrageous that the (Department of Administration) is taking people to jail for quietly holding paper in the state Capitol,” Huberty said. “There have been 18 months of people holding signs in this building — and this rule is just starting to being enforced yesterday.”
Newly appointed Capitol Police Chief David Erwin said last week he was going to be more aggressive in enforcing requirements that those protesting in the building have permits.
People generally opposing Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans have been a regular presence in the Capitol for more than a year.16513954
Erwin was hired under the Walker administration after the previous chief left to take a job with Dane County Emergency Management.
On Thursday, Erwin said those involved with the citations were politely asked to comply with the rules and obtain a permit. He said they politely refused, and they were subsequently cited for unlawful display of a sign.
Erwin said the citations are based on a rule that’s existed for more than 30 years, and just now, his officers are more fairly and uniformly enforcing it.
“They do have a right to be here, and I want them to be here. I just want them to use the process that we have in place — the process, since 1979, has been in place,” Erwin said.
Last December, new policies were created for demonstrations involving four people or more. The policy requires groups to obtain a permit at least 72 hours in advance. Officials have said these permit rules have existed for more than 30 years, and the changes last year only formalized those rules and made them more clear and uniform.
“Why do we want to play these games here? These are childish games,” Erwin said. “Let’s just be adults about this and let the people enjoy the House.”
Huberty, who calls himself a community activist rather than a protester, said they’re exercising their constitutional right to free speech and said a permit isn’t required for that.
“We are not criminals. We are not protesters,” Huberty said. “The First Amendment is our permit. We don’t need a permit to come here and use this space.”
Those arrested said the American Civil Liberties Union is getting involved and is looking to help them fight their citations.
The protesters and their supporters, including some Democratic state lawmakers, have called police tactics heavy-handed, unnecessary and an affront to free speech rights.