By Matthew Rothschild on September 05, 2012

The crackdown on peaceful protesters at the Wisconsin State Capitol promised by Capitol Police Chief David Erwin began today as eight people were arrested, handcuffed, and issued citations for displaying signs in the rotunda. They were charged with holding signs without a permit under section 2.07(2) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code:

“No displays, signs, banners, placards, decorations or graphic or artistic material may be erected, attached, mounted or displayed within or on the building or the grounds of any state office building or facility without the express written authority of the department. Any graphic or artistic material advertising, promoting, or identifying a commercial enterprise or a political activity is prohibited except as indicated in sub. (4). Any unauthorized material shall be removed and disposed of by the department. The department may set reasonable time limits on permitted activities.”

Two of the “signs” were actually t-shirts being distributed by the organization Muslims for Life that helped to promote the American Red Cross blood drive taking place on the first floor. Another sign said, “We ♥Blood Donors,” and yet another was a copy of Article I, Section 4, of the Wisconsin Constitution, which reads:

“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.”

Ironically, all of these arrests were made within a few feet of a monument to the Wisconsin Constitution that displays a hand-written copy of the document under glass.

Jason Huberty holding his citation next to the state constitution. Photo by Rebecca Kemble.
Jason Huberty holding his citation next to the state constitution. Photo by Rebecca Kemble.

All of the sign holders were standing quietly on the opposite side of the building from where the blood drive was taking place, and they did not interfere with the work of the Red Cross. Several even donated blood after their arrests.

Jason Huberty, 36, was one of those arrested. He says the police warned him and the other protesters “to never hold a sign ever again in this building or we would be taken to county jail and charged with criminal disorderly conduct.”

Arrested with Huberty were other veteran protesters: Will Gruber, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, Genie Ogden, Bart Munger, Joe Skulan, Christine Taylor, and Jeri Troia.

Huberty says the police went through Taylor’s purse and asked her about her prescriptions.

Several of the protesters plan to reassert their rights to free speech tomorrow by showing up with signs.

The Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is ready to defend people arrested for exercising free speech in the public areas of the Capitol. “Attorneys affiliated with the Madison National Lawyers Guild stand ready to defend anyone who suffers arrest as the result of over-zealous enforcement of the Capitol access policy,” read a press release from the group.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration released a press release on the arrests, saying that the protesters were arrested “for displaying banners during a permitted event in the rotunda.” It added that “the officers requested the protestors remove their signs and gave them the option to continue their unpermitted activity on the outdoor Capitol grounds.” Those who didn’t comply were “were arrested and given civil citations.”

Huberty calls the threat of a charge of criminal disorderly conduct for carrying a sign “pretty outrageous.”

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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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