October 1, 2014

Lawsuit filed over Capitol protest policy

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the Walker administration claiming a violation of free speech. The group has issue with the state requiring permits to demonstrate at the Capitol and the subsequent arrests of protesters.

Also spearheading the suit is UW medical physics professor Michael Kissick, who said he stopped demonstrating in September for fear of arrest.

Democratic State Representative Chris Taylor applauds the ACLU’s action saying people have been arrested under “inapplicable administrative code violations.” “People have been charged for bringing hazardous equipment into this Capitol when they were merely carrying a sign.”

Both the court filing and Rep. Taylor say the citation policy is far too vague as to what types of activities and gatherings constitute a violation.

The Department of Administration, the agency in charge of the Capitol, provided a statement: “The permitting process has been in place since 1979, and it is there to coordinate and share the Capitol with other users.  Both state and federal court cases have found that permit requirements are constitutional and do not infringe on free speech,” says spokesperson Stephanie Marquis. “All groups must follow the permitting process, and the Capitol Police issue hundreds of permits each year regardless of political party, affiliation or content.”