State settles protest lawsuit

The State of Wisconsin paid a Capitol protester $19,000 to settle a lawsuit after a state worker stabbed her red heart-shaped balloon and himself in the process.

Attorney Jeff Scott Olson said the 2011 incident was traumatic for his client, protester Leslie Peterson. She was not injured during it.

Olson said he thought Peterson came out with approximately what a jury would’ve awarded her.

In July 2011 Peterson was inside the Capitol building during the later stages of the Act 10 protests, holding a red balloon.

Department of Administration employee Ron Blair, a building manager at the Capitol, said he was tired of taking down the balloons during the protests. He popped Peterson’s balloon, cutting himself in the process. An altercation followed in which Peterson said Blair pushed her against a wall.

“You can’t have people going into the Capitol to participate in peaceful demonstrations and to have their photograph taken and have them attacked with edged weapons and thrown around. That’s unacceptable,” said Olson.

Peterson filed a civil lawsuit against Blair. He pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in November 2011, but it was dismissed after he completed a deferred prosecution agreement.

Blair was transferred out of the Capitol.

“If this had happened to anybody’s wife or sister or mother, they would want justice to be done and that’s what we did,” said Olson.

Blair’s attorney refused to comment on the settlement and a Department of Administration spokesperson did return calls.