Monday, March 19, 2012

How you're losing your rights, WI style (a tragicomedy)

The paper was replaced by plastic garbage bags. During Sunshine Week. Nope, we're not kidding.
All across the country, we 99 Percenters are watching our rights trickle away. Little by little, the freedoms we take pride in as Americans are slowly destroyed through voter suppression; secret and illegal lawmaking; criminalization of picketing; new laws to limit initiatives, referenda and recalls; and government interference in union contracts and a worker's decision to join a union.

The photo above is from Wisconsin's General Assembly, which has banned both cameras and signs in the gallery (but not voting twice by Assembly members). After someone took an embarrassing photo through the glass window, the windows were papered over so no one could see through them.

A perfect metaphor for the transparency of Wisconsin government.

How the Assembly windows came to be papered over began, of course, with the spring uprising. Lawmakers were doing a lot of things that Wisconsin citizens didn't like (e.g., illegally stripping government workers of their collective bargaining rights). Wisconsin citizens protested in the Assembly gallery, as they tend to do. Rather than listen to the voters, the Assembly banned signs and cameras. On November, 18 people, including a journalist, were arrested for carrying cameras in the Assembly gallery. PR Watch reported,
...both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions have provisions protecting the right to free speech, free assembly, and a free press. "The gallery is a free speech area," says attorney Jim Mueller, who was ticketed in October for violating the Assembly rule. "Even if there are rules against signs, they're unconstitutional. It is our right to peaceably assemble and petition the government."
Then Rep. Joel Kleefisch -- who supported voter suppression -- was caught by a cell phone videocamera voting twice. He might have been acting within the rules by voting for another member who was in the chamber. But the video went viral, quite an embarrassment for Kleefisch.

So the Assembly's responded by papering over the windows to the chamber.

Just last week, according to Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op, activist Arthur Kohl-Riggs was arrested for carrying a camera in the Assembly gallery. Observes the Media Co-op,
The Wisconsin State Assembly has its own set of rules. Assembly Rule 26, which covers the conduct in the chamber, is constantly broken on the floor. Members read newspapers. They eat. They use cell phones. There is also a claim that Rule 26 states that cameras and filming are not allowed in the gallery. This is blatantly false, but the Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms’ staff and the Capitol Police choose to ignore that fact.
Watch the video of his arrest here.

What's happening in the Wisconsin Legislature is a tragicomic version of similar repression around the country.

Be very, very afraid.