Three months ago, it was as if someone had sat down at a bar on the Capitol square, ordered a sarsaparilla, watched a tumbleweed mosey on by and remarked, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
At the end of August, Capitol Police Chief David Erwin replaced Charles Tubbs, who took a job with Dane County. With him, Erwin brought a new approach to controlling speech at the Capitol. Promising to crack down on protesters, Erwin did just that.
The problem with that, of course, is that Wisconsin’s Capitol building is considered a public forum, where citizens have a right to speak freely, within reason. And while, yes, there are some annoying incessant ragtag protesters that delegitimize the anti-Walker movement, they don’t warrant an overall crackdown on the others who are exercising their First Amendment rights in that same public forum.
The Capitol Police chief’s favorite character from 1984 must have been O’Brien since he seems to have adopted the dogma that in addition to war being peace, freedom being slavery and ignorance being strength, free speech is coerced silence.
It seems Erwin doesn’t see a distinction between a threat to the state and a Wisconsin citizen. We greatly respect his 11 years as a Marine, but he ought to realize being a public official requires a different mindset (kind of how you can’t run a state with the mindset of a business).
Erwin has made it clear there’s a new sheriff in the Capitol. While he may not be guarding stage coaches or having shootouts at high noon, he certainly has made his mark.