Instead of meekly following instructions — which, oddly enough, the anti-Walker protesters did — we felt immediate outrage and expressed it. If you are one of the many people who criticized me and Meade for selfishly jumping ahead of a line, it's time for an apology.
Let me remind you what happened. I started it. On Saturday, February 26th, the day with the largest crowd, there were "'about 70,000 people' at the Capitol, but they were mainly outside":
I walked right up to the nearest door, and a "volunteer" in an orange vest told me to go wait in a line to go in some other door. This door was for... I didn't quite catch who the special people were who got to go right in the door I'd walked up to, but I said, "This is a public building. You're saying there are 2 kinds of people — ones that get right in and ones that go wait in line? Who are you?" He was obviously not a uniformed city official. I was all "Who are you?" and "How dare you!" and, after a few seconds, I (and Meade) got right through that door.I couldn't tell if the protesters had set up the blockage themselves or if they had somehow colluded with the police, but I was truly outraged that private citizens were assuming the authority to restrict access to the public building.
Once in, I said "How dare they!" about 10 times. Sorry, Meade didn't video that. You've never seen video [of me] as emotional as I was right then. I got outraged for myself and for all the people that were out there waiting in that line. I was outraged about them for 2 reasons: 1. Because they were treated as second-class citizens who had to enter through the subordinate door, and 2. Because they meekly accepted their subordination.
The Washington Post reports on the ousting of the overnight-sleeping protesters:
The protesters demanded to see a written copy of the order before they would go. University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling read the order to the crowd, eliciting cheers when she read the judge's determination that the state had unconstitutionally restricted access to the building.From my observations, it seems that THE PROTESTERS THEMSELVES were doing the initial blocking of the door, without the police, so I'm irked by this righteous exulting. On February 26, a guy wearing an orange vest with the word "Marshall" sharpied on duct tape tried to keep me and Meade out. There were no police there at all. I call bullshit on Lautenschlager's "we won." Read the facts I observed directly and rebut the inference that the protesters initiated the access restriction.
"We won this battle," said former Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager, who represented unions that had challenged the state's decision to limit building access. But she also told the demonstrators they needed to leave.
Now the police WERE there the next day, when Meade arrived at the same door (the King Street door). Inspired by my resistance the previous day, Meade insisted on walking right in. When he got home, he said to me "I almost got myself arrested." He caught it on video, which is embedded in the post "Meade is New Media." He confronted the police, demanding to know by what authority they were telling him that he could not walk right into the Capitol.
When Meade moved to push through the door, one of them accused him of pushing a police officer. I believe that was an attempt to intimidate him into going over and waiting in the access-restricting line. The implication was that they could arrest him if they want, so he'd better get super-compliant right now. A protester who assumes Meade is a typical protester tells Meade that the police are "on our side." That is, the protesters seem to be colluding with the police in the access restriction, which seems to be why they are waiting in line. But Meade isn't with them, and he's not interested in facilitating the collusion. He's on his own.
Here's the video Meade took on February 28, 2011. Listen at 1:03 for Meade's mocking: "Ah, here are the sheep, obeying orders from the police." At 2:55, he's confronting the police about their system. At 3:34, he encounters a legal observer and questions him about whether the exclusion from the building violates constitutional rights.
In short, Meade and I recognized the access restriction as, initially, a private wrong, committed by the private-citizen protesters, and, the next day, a violation of rights by the police. When the police took over the access-restriction policy, the protesters continued to support it, because — I assume — it served their interests. One of the protesters urgently attempted to clue Meade in that the police were on the protesters' side and that he should meekly submit to the line ritual for the good of the collective.
This is what it looks like to me, having experienced it directly and through Meade. If you don't accept my characterization, PROVE ME WRONG.
ADDED: UW polisci prof Howard Schweber emails a response to this post (and gives me permission to publish it here):
Anne,I'll respond to this later.
I have to object. First, the requirements of using only certain doors and standing in line were not created by the protesters, and your "reporting" gives absolutely no evidence to suggest that they were. Second, your "calling bullshit" is about something else entirely.
1) Last Saturday protest leaders explained to me that the restrictions on entrances (only two open at opposite ends of the rotunda) had been set up by the police, and that the protest marshal's were voluntarily helping to enforce them to preserve good relations with the cooperation of the protesters themselves. This is what smart organizers do -- your claim that the restrictions "originated" with the protesters, as far as I know, is incorrect. You may have a good argument to the effect that private citizens should not assist the police in enforcing lawful orders--although that's a pretty longstanding tradition. And of course, if there were evidence that pro-Walker protesters were being treated differently than pro-union protesters that would be a different story, but I haven't heard anything to that effect.
2) All of which it has nothing to do with the story you are reporting, as I understand it.The restrictions to which the judge's order referred were not about closing doors and making people stand in line. As I understand it, starting this past weekend Capitol police would only allow individuals into the building if the were invited by a member of a legislative staff who came to the door to escort them, and each legislator's office was limited to 8 visitors. In addition, the police would let in precisely the number of persons that equally the number of chairs in a scheduled committee meeting. In addition, police told reporters that they would allow one person in for every protester inside who left. Those actions were what prompted the motion for an injunction -- not the selective blocking of entrances and requirement that people stand in line. I got this information from a reporter, Dustin Pedroia, who put his press pass in his pocket and walked up to a cop with a copy of the injunction, and was *still* denied entrance to the Capitol -- that's what gave rise to the contempt hearing..
3) Consequently, with all due respect, your "crying bullshit" is bullshit. The protesters cooperated with police to ensure that public access to -- and egress from -- the Capitol would be peaceful and orderly in accordance with content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. The fact that those restrictions might incidentally affect other members of the general public does not make them invalid, nor does the fact that private citizens voluntarily assisted in enforcing their terms. The purpose of those restrictions, finally, was to control the flow of traffic, not to limit access. By contrast, the administration's subsequent efforts were to prevent access to any significant number of people. That was the subject and purpose of the injunction, and that was the claim of "victory." I don't care whether one agrees with the protests or not, it is no more truthful to describe the organizers as authoritarians limiting their own supporters free speech rights than it is to characterize them as union thugs.
In other words, this ain't the 60's. No one is throwing bombs or even rocks. These are middle class protesters assembling to make a political staement, not agitators looking for a confrontation. And they are Wisconsinites: they stand in line, they cooperate, they like to keep things peaceful and benign. They're just like that. It is quite true that the protesters are not free speech absolutists or insisting on exercising their rights to the fullest possible extent -- but that's because that's not what they are protesting about (this is also not the Berkeley Free Speech movement.) Antagonizing the police in the name of First Amendment absolutism would be childish self-indulgence for these protesters, both those who support Walker and those who support the unions. Cooperating with the police to ensure that large-scale protests can go forward over a period of weeks without any untoward incidents? That's for grown-ups. And if the police go too far? Go get a court order -- that, too, is the grown-up response.
ADDED: My response is here.