On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker threw in the towel. After having the capitol police arrest more than 200 nonviolent protesters who were merely singing freedom songs over this summer, his administration settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Wisconsin.
As part of the agreement, protesters no longer need to have a permit to protest in the state capitol. All they have today is notify the administration. Nor do they have to assume any liability, as they were required to do before.
Walker's capitol cops had gotten increasingly hostile, handcuffing people unnecessarily and tackling a nonviolent observer, Damon Terrell, on August 26 and jailing him for 72 hours on a bogus "assaulting an officer" charge.
(Walker's cops also arrested me in August while I was simply doing my job as a journalist. They kept me in handcuffs for more than an hour and then sent me to the county jail.)
But over the last few weeks, Walker's cops have relented, and haven't arrested anyone, though the Department of Administration refused to say why.
It might have something to do with a lawsuit it will be facing in the Damon Terrell case.
In any event, the ACLU's settlement should calm things down in the capitol even more.
"This is a huge victory," says State Representative Chris Taylor. "We have been saying for the last two years that we shouldn't have to get a permit to sing in our capitol. No more threat of or actual arrests, intimidating court dates and other harassing and intimidating behavior singers must endure."
Not everyone was thrilled, though.
"'Advance notice' sounds a lot like the current permitting process," said C.J. Terrell, Damon's brother, who himself was arrested for nonviolently protesting in the capitol.
He thinks it's a distraction from the issue of police misconduct.
But for the people who have been showing up at the capitol every workday for the past two and a half years, the settlement reaffirms their rights. And their chants echo more loudly today: "We're still here."
Photo: Flickr user ky_olsen, creative commons licensed.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the Senior editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Here's How the Republican Nonsense Will End.
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