The most notable building on the Madison skyline sits like an egg atop a nest of surrounding buildings. By night, it acts as a beacon of light for the weary and otherwise disoriented. This building, of course, is the Wisconsin State Capitol.
The Capitol is the tallest building in the city of Madison, and rightfully so, because politics are important to this city and the state it calls home. Wisconsin has been recognized by the president as a key state in deciding the outcome of this presidential election.
Accordingly, a political spotlight is being placed over the city of Madison, not unlike the spotlights that illuminate the Capitol in a bright white light at night. As a result of the increased focus on politics in Madison, the Capitol has become a soundstage for protesters to shout from and be heard. Whether it is with creative chants, posters or a guy on a Segway, these protesters want to voice their opinions by any means necessary in the hope of getting through to political leaders and other voters.
Thanks to a combination of the stubborn natures of both protesters and the newly appointed Capitol Police Chief, David Erwin, 50 citations were given to Capitol protesters in September. When compared to the 40 citations issued between January and August, the number of citations seen in the past month alone is pretty outrageous. Although I realize we are moving ever closer to the presidential election and tensions among opposing parties are high, I think an increase from an average of five citations per month to 50 citations in one month is excessive. Do the math – that is a 1,000 percent increase in the monthly rate of citations.
As a citizen of the U.S., I am troubled to discover people are being discouraged from exercising their constitutional right to freedom of speech.
I know some of the citations were based on safety issues and disorderly conduct toward law enforcement. What is alarming is the number of people who were cited for “unlawful display of sign,” which totaled 11 out of the 50 that received citations. This is a direct infringement on the rights of American citizens, as it prevents people from speaking their minds, and is thus a form of political censorship, … a censorship eerily similar to the kind found in Soviet Russia. Where’s McCarthy when you need him?
Recently, eight people were arrested for “unlawful display of sign” at the Capitol. One man named Jason Huberty was displaying a Gandhi quote that was eventually taken by police. So he wrote a new quote on a different sign. The police proceeded to confiscate the new sign and ticketed Huberty. After this final exchange, the police told Huberty if he ever wanted to display a sign at the Capitol again, he would need a permit, and failure to do so would result in a charge of disorderly conduct.
This is ridiculous in all senses of the word. From these arrests, I gather Erwin believes that because someone’s opinions are offensive or do not agree with another person’s worldview, it is illegal to display these opinions. No, Erwin is wrong. That is life. Just look at our history. The history of mankind is based in war, and wars throughout our history have been the result of differences in belief systems, which ultimately stem from differences in opinions.
It is human to be unique and it is human to think for yourself, with your own opinionated assumptions. I will not go as far as to say these Capitol crackdowns are denying a protesters the right to be human, but I do believe they are unjust under our Constitution and contradict what the United States of America has grown to stand for as a symbol of democracy for the rest of the world.
Hayes Cascia (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sophomore majoring in marketing.