This week, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that 482 panic buttons were installed in offices in the Capitol in an effort to further step up security. It’s sad that Wisconsin state representatives feel their safety is in danger enough to justify panic buttons.
Yes, someone did pull a box cutter on Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) in Spring 2011, as noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but that was more of an isolated incident than a regular occurrence. This, in combination with the new Capitol Police Chief David Erwin taking a harsher, stricter line with protesters, makes one wonder if our state capitol will turn into a literal military industrial concept.
Perhaps the panic buttons were called for by someone who felt that protesters last year were a threat to the peace. Perhaps it’s because the Republican-dominant occupants feel that protesting is a vile, unjustified form of expression inimical to democracy. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that the state has felt it necessary to take such an action.
At some point, if the current path of panic buttons and harsh enforcement is continued upon, the state will start to lose legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. I want to know that security in my state’s capitol is there to protect me, not glare me down from behind a veil of authority. I want to perceive my state’s capitol as an institution open to its citizens, since, after all, it exists to serve them.
Safety is important. But so is education. And poverty. And mental health. There are a host of other issues more worthy of the $103,172 the installation cost taxpayers. Hopefully the new panic button is the last symptom to manifest itself in a movement toward a less accessible government.
Reginald Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in legal studies and Scandinavian studies.