Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
By Matthew Rothschild
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is declaring September 17 as “Read the Constitution Day.”
But he should read it himself, both the U.S. Constitution (with special emphasis on the First Amendment) and the Wisconsin State Constitution, since he has been violating the spirit of the first and the letter of the second.
He closed the capitol down during the protests in February and March of 2011.
He had people arrested (including me) for merely holding signs or taking pictures in the State Assembly gallery last fall.
And over the last couple of weeks, his newly appointed capitol police chief has referred to defenders of free speech in the capitol as “terrorists, for lack of a better word.” And Chief David Erwin has been arresting people for carrying signs with the words of Article 1, Section 4, of the Wisconsin State Constitution, on them. That section states:
“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.”
What is it about “shall never be abridged” that Scott Walker doesn’t understand?
Chief Erwin, after having his deputies film the protesters in the rotunda, has also sent deputies to their homes and, in at least one case, to a person’s place of work to give them a ticket for carrying signs in the capitol.
So Scott Walker, please take time out on Monday to familiarize yourself with our constitutions. And stop trampling on our rights.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Free Speech Advocates Defiant in Madison, WI."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter