Wausau Police Drop Charges on Man with “Bushit” Sign
January 28, 2005
Almost every Friday night for the past two years, Mike Wallschlaeger has been protesting the Iraq War. Usually, he and other activists hold their demonstration outside the courthouse in Wausau, Wisconsin.
That’s where they were on Jan. 7.
But this protest ended differently than their previous ones. Wallschlaeger, 41, got slapped with a police citation for obscenity.
Wallschlaeger was using a sign he’d carried many times before. It said, “This War Is Bushit.”
He says he placed it in a snowbank so the traffic could see it. And he also had a sandwich board that read: “Today’s total: US Dead 1,358, Wounded over 10,252.”
A man in town did not take kindly to the “Bushit” sign.
“You’ve got to take down that sign. It’s profane,” he said, according to Wallschlaeger.
“And I said, ‘No it isn’t. It’s not a real word.’
“And he said, ‘If you don’t take it down, I’m calling the police.’
“And I said, ‘Go ahead.’
He did, and a police officer, M. LaPorte, showed up, and, according to Wallschlaeger, he said: “There’s a person who complained, and he had a granddaughter in his car, and he didn’t know what to say to his granddaughter.”
Wallschlaeger said he responded: “He probably should have said this is this gentleman’s way of expressing his political opinion of the war, and that probably would have ended the whole conversation.”
Then Officer LaPorte said, “You need to remove the sign or we’re going to give you a citation.”
But Wallschlaeger stood his ground.
“I know my constitutional rights,” he recalls saying, “and I’m not going to remove my sign.”
LaPorte was trying to remain neutral, says Wallschlaeger, who added that the Wausau City Attorney, William Nagle, had given the officer explicit instructions to cite Wallschlaeger for obscenity charges if he didn’t remove the sign.
“I don’t want to tell you your job, but you might want to call the city attorney back because I’m going to fight this as far as I can take it,” Wallschlaeger says he told LaPorte. “This is not going to stand.”
LaPorte, according to Wallschlaeger, said the dispatcher told him to issue the citation anyway and to confiscate the sign, which he did.
The citation charged Wallschlaeger with obscene language and fined him $102.
Wallschlaeger’s encounter received a lot of local and some national media attention.
On January 18, Wallschlaeger says he got a phone call from Police Chief Bill Brandimore, who left a message on his machine saying: “We decided to drop the charges. I’d like you to call me to make arrangements to get back your sign.”
Chief Brandimore tells The Progressive, “We erred, and when it was brought to our attention, we corrected it. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just a guy with an opinion.”
City Attorney Nagle refused to comment.
Wallschlaeger has received death threats in the past for his protests. Whenhe was displaying an upside down flag after the war started in March 2003, one caller on local talk radio said, according to Wallschlaeger, “He should have the flag wrapped around his neck, he should be shot in the head, and thrown into the river.”
As to his recent obscenity charge, Wallschlaeger says: “There are some rogue elements that don’t understand the Constitution, and they’ll try to find ways of quashing dissent.”