April 19, 2014

State settles lawsuit with protester

Wisconsin taxpayers will pay $19,000 to settle a civil lawsuit from a State Capitol protester who was shoved by a state worker and had her heart-shaped balloon popped.

Leslie Peterson filed the suit against administration employee Ronald Blair, following a 2011 incident that took place during the daily protest sing-alongs in the Capitol Rotunda. Prosecutors said Blair claimed to be a Capitol police officer when he approached Peterson, and used a blade to pop a red balloon she was holding. Petersen then ran down a stairway after Blair, and he admitted grabbing her by the arm and pushing her into a women’s restroom.

Blood was found in the area, and Blair said he accidentally cut himself.

The heart-shaped balloons were a symbol of the protests against the collective bargaining limits on public unions. Blair said he was tired of taking down the balloons from the Capitol ceiling when they were released and pleaded guilty to criminal disorderly conduct, although the charge was dropped after he completed a deferred prosecution agreement. He no longer works in the Capitol building.

A spokeswoman with the state Department of Administration said “this was an unfortunate incident, and the case was resolved in the best interest of taxpayers.”