Cops Cuff Firefighter, Another Officer Dissents
Scott Walker’s crackdown in the Wisconsin capitol keeps backfiring.
On Monday, 300 demonstrators showed up for the Solidarity Sing Along, the most since the crackdown began three weeks—and more than 220 arrests—ago.
But that didn’t stop Walker’s capitol police from putting the cuffs on another dozen people singing freedom songs, including a Madison firefighter.
Ted Higgins of Madison Local 311 was wearing his firefighter shirt and hat when the police handcuffed him and took him to the basement of the capitol for processing.
I spoke with him about fifteen minutes before he was arrested.
“I’m here to stand against the Governor Walker’s crackdown on workers’ rights and on people’s voices,” he said.
He made note of Walker’s recent comment that he’s considering taking collective bargaining away from police and firefighters, whom he had exempted the first time around.
“Walker said he’s now coming to get us,” Higgins said. “We knew it all along.”
He said that if the capitol police wanted to arrest him, he’d be “happy to assert my right to be in the capitol.”
As he was arrested, the crowd chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
I saw Higgins after his arrest. He was carrying his pink ticket for “unlawful assembly.”
He said he told the arresting officer, “I’m using my constitutional rights.”
Higgins is going to challenge the ticket.
“I plan to go have my day in court and plead not guilty and be tried by a jury of my peers,” he said.
Also willing to get arrested on Monday was Brian Austin, a Madison police officer, who was there off duty in his street clothes.
“I’ve been watching this with growing alarm,” says Austin, who is a leader with Cops for Labor. “This is unprecedented for a governor. I don’t recall anyone behaving like this and stifling free speech before. This is the most public of all places for dissent, and people of all political stripes should be outraged.”
He said this is “the ultimate in big government abuse,” adding that Walker is violating “the most sacred rights that make us Americans.”
And that really bothers Austin.
“As a constitutional officer, I find that very offensive and troubling,” he said. “It’s really outrageous that members of my extended law enforcement family are being used in this way.”
Austin, who wasn’t arrested Monday, feels for the capitol police.
“I know a lot of these officers,” he says. “I consider some of them friends. My beef is not with them but with the forces controlling them. A lot of the officers don’t want to be there and probably feel sick when they’re going home.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Obama, the Pensive War Criminal.
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
- Give a Gift
- About Us
- Civil Liberties
CURRENT ISSUE: December 2013 / January 2014
Rick Bass | Why I’m left with no choice but to put my body on the line.
When Government Was Neighborly
Wendell Berry | Saluting a New Deal program that helped Kentucky farmers.
The Bravest Woman I Know
Kathy Kelly | How an eighty-two-year-old librarian braved Baghdad.
How to Build a New World
Naomi Klein | Why I was wrong in The Shock Doctrine—and what we must do now.