So this is it, July 4th 2017, Independence day. A time in which we are supposed to be glad for our independence. But what independence do we really have? What rights in this country do we truly have to be proud of? And when does exercising your rights subject you to losing those rights altogether? I hope to answer some of those questions and detail just how far Madison Police will go to harass someone for simply exercising their rights. I am not the first, I am not the only, but I can very comprehensively share my story.
It all starts back in March of 2011. The Capitol occupation had ended, the numbers still showing up had plummeted from dozens of thousands to hundreds. And they were getting thinner by the day. One day my friend Tommy, whom I had known from downtown outside of the protests, and my other friend Michael whom I had met at the protests decided to hold a sign on the first floor of the rotunda. The police told them it was illegal to do so and they would be arrested if they didn’t put it down. Neither one able to afford an arrest, complied. Video of that is here.
I spent the next week looking for someone willing to get arrested with me, to no avail. Keep in mind that this was a different time. This was long before Occupy even although the Occupy movement admitted the Wisconsin uprising gave them their motivation and idea. This was the beginning of a new age of civil disobedience which was mostly unseen since the Vietnam war days. People looked at arrests much differently back then. So I decided to make a music video to Eminem’s song Mosh with protest footage. It was then that I got a Facebook message from a veteran from Florida named Valerie Walasek. She informed me she was coming to Madison and wanted to help however she could. I asked if she was willing to get arrested and she said yes. We made arrangements to meet up the next day, and after a wild goose chase finally did. What came first was the first civil disobedience arrest in the Wisconsin State Capitol in ages. The next day local activist legend Ben Masel joined us. This would be his last political action as he passed away about a month later. No one got arrested that day. The next three days more and more people joined in. Videos of those arrests here, here, here, here, and here. Note on the fourth day two young boys got arrested and the media shit storm caused them to stop arresting people. Ah the days when police cared about a media shit storm or image.
After that I moved on to other rights violations in the Capitol, first challenging them by myself, then being joined by more and more people. These violations were for filming and holding signs in the legislative galleries and open committee meetings. By the time the sing along arrests started (yes for those who don’t know they did arrest people for singing), people had been so desensitized to being arrested that day one of that battle hundreds were willing to risk arrest. But in these early days Madison Police got along with me. They enjoyed my aggressive tactics against a regime that was taking away their rights to collectively bargain. Things were easy back then. The majority of Capitol Police didn’t even agree with the arrests. But things took a turn for the worst when it became Madison Police stepping out of line.
It was the beginning of Madison Mayor Paul Soglins war on the homeless. The police were instructed to give homeless people tickets for “bumming” cigarettes. I stumbled across this while giving a homeless man a cigarette and watching him get a ticket (video here). I spent the next 3 months asking every cop I saw if I could get a cigarette. I received no tickets proving that the policy was targeted just for the homeless. After three months an officer told me to stop and I did. He called a higher up in and that individual finally gave me a ticket which I fought and won, shortly thereafter they mostly stopped the policy, at least for the time being. This is when I became an annoyance rather than a convenience for the police.
Two weeks later a horse cop gave me a ticket for saying the word “fuck” in public. At 2am, on a Friday, on State Street where everyone is drunk. This was the first time Madison Police had given me a ticket just to give me a ticket. That ticket was later dismissed.
Fast forward September 26, 2014. I at my house and my girlfriend (at the time) had taken the keys to my Mercedes and told me that she was going to leave for Illinois with it and never come back (steal my car). She does come back, and I ask her to give me my keys. She refuses, continues on to bust into my room of which I had just changed the lock. Then she shoves herself up against the door. I push on the door and yell give me my keys. She calls 911. About six police show up. Our stories match (and to what I described here). The officer continues on about how he knows who I am and can literally post up outside the house and wait for so much as a seat belt ticket until I move. He then arrests me for disorderly conduct (his partner vocally stating that she disagrees). The police try to get me on Felony Stalking as well, charges they knew would never stick and didn’t fit. But they did manage to get me on a no drinking bond restriction for months. And during that time, on five separate incidents, police questioned me if I was ever seen in a downtown bar and made sure I hadn’t been drinking.
Now fast forward to March 6, 2015. A young man with a bright future named Tony Robinson is shot and killed by police officer Matt Kenny. Kenny’s story keeps changing and as things unfold forensic evidence proves multiple portions are proven incorrect via forensic evidence. He is nonetheless cleared of wrongdoing. At one point in the protests people blocked off a popular street in Madison, I showed up and bailed everyone out who needed it. This was not my battle to lead however, and in no way did I ever take or attempt to take a leadership role. I was simply an ally who was willing to throw in some money if need be. Before the non indictment rally I have 500 yard signs printed and distributed stating “Fuck The Police – Jail Matt Kenny – Brought To You By 1-844-NOFUCKS”. Of note the number is actually a working toll free number that I own.
Shortly after that, an Asian friend of mine is getting accosted by the Madison Police outside of a bar that we frequented. He was being harassed for forty minutes in the freezing cold before I found out what was going on. I come out with a camera which makes the officers demand I stop recording, of which I refuse to comply so many times they eventually drop the claim altogether. We all go our separate ways. An hour later a friend informs me there is a cop parked outside of my car. I exit the bar and the cop speeds away. What do I see? A ticket for being illegally parked in a handicap space. Literally right next to my handicap parking placard in clear site (pictured). Over the next two months I receive three more of those tickets each time having to fight it and each time proudly placed literally right next to the handicap parking placard. Of note each time it was also an actual Madison Police officer not a parking enforcement officer writing the tickets. The parking harassment didn’t stop until I finally got handicap plates making it impossible to say they didn’t see my qualifications.
Fast forward to late July 2016. I am renting out a room in my house to a gentleman who is on house arrest. Deputy Hamilton of the Dane County Sherriffs office comes to give him a random drug test. He then takes him out in cuffs. He refuses to explain why. I call the next day and he tells me that my house is on red alert. That any time that my address, name, or plates were run it pops up a message “Red Alert – Dangerous to law enforcement – proceed with caution”. I keep asking for a reason why when I have had dozens of arrests and not one have I ever even been accused of showing dangerous behavior. He finally says “because of the work you’ve done with a very small but very vocal minority”, referring to the local Black Lives Matter movement. Interesting to note when asked about this statement by the Wisconsin State Journal he refused to comment (article posted later in this blog). He ended the conversation not long after that. Two days later I’m pulled over for speeding, three squads guns drawn. This is now my normal for a traffic stop.
Fast forward to September of 2016. I am having a rough time following a radiation treatment. I am coughing up large amounts of blood. I go out to my front porch and call 911 as I had been advised the day before not to get a ride or drive to the hospital if that happens but instead to call an ambulance. About 5 minutes pass by and I see three people with flashlights checking mailboxes. They come closer and stop across the street at the neighbors house. They inform me that I need to walk over to them if I want an ambulance. Barely able to walk, but without another option I comply. Two young officers explain that because I’m on alert I must be searched before emergency aid is rendered. One older officer stands with gun drawn ready to shoot. I comply not seeing any options and barely able to even breathe and they call the ambulance after searching me and putting all of my belongings in an evidence bag as shown. My write up from that incident is here and the Wisconsin State Journal one (which doesn’t refute my record of events) is here.
Fast forward to two days later. I am out of the hospital and recovering. A gentleman texts my line asking if he can get some marijuana. He stops over at the house and I alledgedly sell him an eighth (3.5 grams) of marijuana. Interesting enough the reports said the bag actually in fact weighed 3.6 grams so if the allegations were correct he even got a hook up. Of note the police said an incorrect date for the first visit not realizing I had cameras. The same gentleman (pictured to the side) named UC 220 for undercover officer 220 was the only person to show up at the house the other two days mentioned in the report and the only person even remotely near the time frame reported. Why would they lie about the date? They figured it was inconsequential so it would never be caught. But it does show that the “investigation” happened right after the holding up of the ambulance and in retaliation for me talking about it. Two more buys were alledged one of an eighth one of a quarter (7 grams).
On October 26th 2016 I am walking my dog and police come up to me, seize my dog, and put me under arrest taking me to the West Precinct for questioning. I gave them the code to get into my house as soon as I saw the warrant. Considering I had been isolated and no one else was home they decided to bust the door down anyway in a 15 man swat raid, running over my yard sign with the MRAP (tank like vehicle). They bust down the door and two windows for no reason. They also dog sniff my car in the parking lot and admit it was negative but say if “he” (meaning the detective on the case as I had already been booked into the jail) asks say it was positive. Video of them lying on camera and admitting they had the code but damaged the house anyway can be found here.
One would think, they had me arrested, they spent dozens of thousands of dollars on an investigation it would all be over right? Wrong! At the time I had a rent to own house. I had built up $60k in equity in it and was able to buy it out with the equity the coming March. Madison Police called the person I was buying it from and informed him that he can legally evict me and keep all the equity since it was still rent to own and Walker signed a bill the previous month allowing evictions for drug offenses before an actual conviction. He saw dollar signs and I lost the house. So there I was, a brain cancer patient, kicked out of my house in the middle of winter. Forced to find other housing with four pending felonies, a dismissed eviction, and three giant dogs. I managed somehow.
At some point in this I had looked up information on the detective (Edward Bernards) who ran the case, oppositional research if you will. He wouldn’t stop calling my phone trying to get me to flip and turn over someone else in exchange for making it all go away. I never returned the calls. Until December. I informed him that it was ridiculous they spent all that money and effort on small time weed when Heroin is taking over the streets. I told him I was mad they had my house taken. And then I asked if his wife, Amy, the Dermatologist at Marshfield Clinic could be happy with him when she encounters a skin cancer patient in which only marijuana helps. Or his daughter at Waunakee High School has a class mate that dies of a heroin overdose. And as she’s balling in his arms, if he could explain to her that HE CHOSE to target small time marijuana while the heroin dealer, which would most likely reside in his precinct ran free. He asked where I was going with this and I said I just hope you can sleep at night, then hung up. He called the DA and demanded I be tried for threatening him. They refused. A copy of that report is below, He never tried to get me to snitch again though,
They attempted to get me on four felonies, interesting enough none from the actual raid or what they found. I settled for 14 days jail with work release and one felony. I spoke with 5 defense attorneys and 2 different prosecutors. All said they have never seen a case where they went through so much effort over something so small. It was not about what I alledgedly did. It was about who I was. But still, even to this day, Madison Police refuse to let up. It is a normal occurrence where I will be pulled over for something minor, like speeding. And always so conveniently have 4 or more squads available and a K9. The K9 hits on my car. They find nothing in the car. And why? Because I dare challenge them? Because I dare have a voice and try to give others one as well? We are not free, we are not independent. This is the cost of exercising your freedom in such a way they don’t like. So as you celebrate Independence Day just remember you are only free so long as you remain a slave.