By Matthew Rothschild on September 06, 2012

The faceoff continues. Despite the crackdown yesterday, with the arrest of eight demonstrators in the Madison capitol for holding signs or T-shirts, free speech advocates continue to express their rights. They are challenging Scott Walker’s administrative rule limiting protest, and they are challenging the new capitol police chief’s policy of enforcing that rule.

One of the protesters arrested yesterday, Jason Huberty, returned to the capitol Thursday morning carrying a sign with the words of Article 1, Section 4, of the Wisconsin state constitution on it. Those words are: “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

He was also wearing a T-shirt that said “Freedom of Speech.”

The police arrested him, handcuffed him, and took him off to the county jail.

Other free speech defenders were in the capitol, wondering whether they would be arrested, too.

One was Steve Gotcher, who was also holding a sign containing the words of Article 1, Section 4. (Disclaimer: Gotcher, who is co-owner of Audio for the Arts, is a friend of mine, and I record my commentaries at his business.)

“I’m here because the capitol police are trying to enforce rules that are unconstitutional,” Gotcher said. “It’s important for me to put myself in their path and to let people know they need to come back to the People’s House or we’re going to lose it.”

Gotcher has never been arrested before.

Nor, before yesterday, had Jeri Troia, 57. She had made a couple of 4x6 index cards. One said: “Violence Is the Last Refuge of the Incompetent,” a quote from Isaac Asimov. And the other said: “Chief Erwin Thinks It’s the Fist Amendment.” She was referring to Madison capitol police chief David Erwin, who had advised legislative staffers that if one of the protesters was bothering them, they should punch the protesters in the nose.

“The police arrested me for holding a T-shirt that said ‘Muslims for Life,’ which I got from a group that was giving blood at the Red Cross booth,” says Troia, a substitute teacher. “I just kind of laughed. I’d promised my husband I wouldn’t get arrested.”

Wisconsin Democratic Representative Chris Taylor calls these arrests “absolutely crazy.” She adds: “It’s really too bad that the new chief is proceeding this way.”

More defenders of free speech are expected to come to the capitol later today and tomorrow.

Addendum: Steve Gotcher was arrested later this morning, as was Whitney Steffen. “I’m disappointed that they would actually do it,” said Gotcher, who was cited for “illegal display of a sign.” The officers handcuffed him tightly, as the indentation on his wrist was visible several hours later. “They said if I ever come back with a sign, I would be taken to the Dane County jail,” said Gotcher. But that might not deter him. “I don’t like getting arrested,” he said. “But I’ll do it again.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Paul Ryan Has It Wrong on Where Our Rights Come From."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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Dubbed “Ferguson to Madison,” the rally drew striking social parallels between the two cities.

Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by the police in the United States.

Darren Wilson is free to go back to his job policing the citizens of Ferguson, if he wants. Michael Brown is dead...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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