Anyone who’s been following the work I have been doing has seen the First Amendment of the US Constitution literally trampled on by the GOP in power here in Wisconsin. It started with them saying you cannot hold signs on any floor but the ground floor of the Capitol. This battle started when Valerie Walasek, a disabled veteran and I decided to defy this rule. I then posted a video and the number of people increased daily defying the rule and getting tickets. It finally spiraled to the point that the policy was removed. All tickets were dismissed as they were unconstitutional. Then came committee meetings where I got word people were told to put down their signs. The first day I was solo in defying this rule. I stood firmly by the notion that we must be able to peaceably petition our government. This time, after the first day, every committee meeting after a person or two would join me and through persistent tickets we got that rule changed. Once again, all tickets were dropped. I then did the same exact thing in the galleries, the next few times I was joined and today I found out it is now ok to hold signs in the galleries. For those that don’t know, the gallery is an area above the Senate and Assembly (houses of the WI Legislature) chambers. It is the only place public can watch the sessions in person.
So let’s get to today. After winning several constitutional battles, I decided to tackle the last unconstitutional policy on my list (although they will probably create more to fight). This time it had to deal with cameras. You see, in Wisconsin, there is a service called Wisconsineye. It is a state level CSPAN although not related to CSPAN it is the same exact thing just on a state level. The problem, however, is that as a citizen you must either watch it live or watch the entire video online. For instance, let’s say Senator Erpenbach gives a knock out speech. A citizen cannot take the footage of just his speech and post it online because Wisconsineye says you cannot post their comment. The vast majority of people don’t have time to sit through three hours of video just to see one speech. The legislature and Wisconsineye then work together to make sure government is less transparent whether it be by censoring videos or not allowing people to post the content. So I record legislative meetings so I can chop out the main points so that more people can watch what is going on who don’t have time to watch a long video. I usually chop it to fifteen minutes.
So today the Senate was discussing how the majority party could tilt the maps with redistricting at a cost of potentially millions of dollars to the taxpayers (about $300k so far I believe) to save select candidates. I pulled out my camera and started filming so that I could then make a video. I was told I could not film, but being a member of the press (albeit underground press) I said I am protected under the First Amendment. They then asked me to leave to which I refused and asked several more times to which I reiterated I was not doing anything wrong and therefore should not have to leave. I was silent the entire time with the exception of talking to the police. They lifted me up and carried me out of the door. I was later issued a citation for “Other Conduct Prohibited” bringing the total to eighteen illegal citations. This is an outrage. If citizens cannot record their government or the ability to record is restricted to one place that people cannot share we have no democracy. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. We must stop this power grab as soon as possible. Soldiers have died for us to have our constitutional rights and although the constitution may not be perfect it is the foundation of the house we call our country. I am encouraging all people to film legislative meetings. For now here is a video of them debating on the floor and my removal:
Defending Wisconsin PAC