In Scott Walker's Wisconsin, Democracy is only "Free" for Those That Agree
By Ryan Alexander
Prior to Scott Walker taking office, Wisconsin was known around the world for our laws and traditions that encourage all citizens to directly participate in their democracy, regardless of their age, race or socioeconomic status.
In less than a year, Scott Walker and his cronies in the legislature have done everything they can to shred Wisconsin's democratic traditions in order to shut out those who disagree with their extreme agenda:
- Scott Walker pushed for and signed into law a discriminatory Voter ID law to suppress the votes of minorities, students, the poor and the elderly. Scott Walker's administration then created a poll tax by instructing DMV workers not to tell citizens that they can receive IDs for free.
- Scott Walker and his cronies passed the most partisan redistricting maps in Wisconsin history with the clear intent of disenfranchising minority voters, which is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.
- Scott Walker destroyed Wisconsin's open meetings law that requires 24 hour notice of meetings of the legislature to pass his union-busting law that stripped more than 175,000 Wisconsin workers of rights they've had for more than 50 years.
Working Wisconsin families have repeatedly stood up to Scott Walker and his rubberstamps in the legislature for their assault on our shared values and traditions, but time-and-again Scott Walker has gone out of his way to ignore their voice.
Today Scott Walker launched his latest assault on Wisconsin's democracy by announcing a new policy to charge big money to protesters who peacefully assemble to petition their state government in the State Capitol.
Scott Walker's policy would require groups of four or more people to apply for permits at least 72 hours in advance for events at the state Capitol. In addition, protestors would have to pay for police officers, at a rate of $50 per hour per officer -- plus any additional security costs and possibly even purchase liability insurance. Protestors would also have to pay the Capitol Police in advance in order to get a permit.
The policy is already raising serious questions from First Amendment experts according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Edward Fallone, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School, said the possibility of charging demonstrators for police costs might be problematic because some groups might not be able to afford to pay.
"I'm a little skeptical about charging people to express their First Amendment opinion," he said. "You can't really put a price tag on the First Amendment."
Bob Dreps, a lawyer who handles First Amendment cases including work for the Journal Sentinel, noted that the state can put some restrictions on the "time, place and manner" of free speech. But he said it was "laughable" to define a rally as four or more people.
"They still have to be reasonable on their face," Dreps said of the rules.
The message from Scott Walker is clear: If you're an out-of-state billionaire like Charles or David Koch or member of a wealthy special interest group you can call him at anytime and he'll listen to your concerns. If you are disabled, a senior, a farmer, a minority, a student or an average middle-class family, your voice doesn't count in Scott Walker's Wisconsin.