Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Just get a permit

1

The Wisconsin State Journal committed a flagrant act of journalism (as Charlie Sykes likes to say) and compared the supposedly new draconian rule enforcement at the Capitol in Madison with other states’ capitol buildings. Turns out that protestors in Wisconsin have it easier than their counterparts in other states.

Tighter rules on protests inside the Wisconsin State Capitol have angered demonstrators and raised civil liberties concerns. But the state is in good company when it comes to regulating speech — especially loud or highly visible speech — in the seat of state government.

Nearly half of all states do not allow protests inside their Capitol buildings, a State Journal survey has found. Of the 26 states that do allow protesters to rally inside their Capitol buildings, all but six require some form of permit to hold even a small demonstration.

When asked what would happen if someone tried to hold a rally in the Nebraska state Capitol, one of 24 states that prohibits them, tourism supervisor Roxanne Smith said, “Boy, it’s never happened … I suppose the troopers would escort them out.”

In Wisconsin, the decision by new Capitol Police Chief David Erwin to strictly enforce rules requiring permits for demonstrations has pitted authorities against protesters who say they shouldn’t be required to get a permit if they want to express their views.

In the wake of Erwin’s crackdown, which has resulted in numerous arrests and renewed vigor among the protesters, the State Journal surveyed officials in each of the 50 state Capitols.

Wisconsin Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the results of the survey show that Wisconsin’s requirements are reasonable and “much more generous” than those in other states.

“The permitting process is there to make sure that everyone has a voice, and that everyone can use the Capitol,” Marquis said.

When the ACLU spokesman was confronted with this news, she tried to claim that Wisconsin is special.

Spokeswoman Stacy Harbaugh said the rules in other states are not as important as the Wisconsin Capitol’s history as a center of protests and demonstrations.

“(The Capitol) is a space for First Amendment rights,” Harbaugh said. “And that’s bigger than a permit.”

You know what else is bigger than a permit? A breadbox.

I’ve criticized the need for a permit for as little as four people, pointing out that Capitol Police should be able to handle any disruptive nuisances from a group that size. However, there is no reason for protests not to apply for a permit especially when the police chief who is supposedly cracking down on the protests has promised to issue the permits. He just stopped taking their pizza orders like his predecessor.

Instead, the left would rather have people get arrested, be issued citations, and generally be disruptive in a vain effort to attract attention to themselves. It would be almost funny if their conduct didn’t frequently cross the line into harrassment and even threatening behavior.

Finally we have a capitol police chief and a process that goes around the Dane County District Attorney, and the rest of the state can only hope that order is restored in the state capitol. After all, the Capitol doesn’t belong to just the protestors, it belongs to all of us.

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