by Clyde Weiss | February 24, 2014
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s scheme to deny free speech rights – to demonstrators who expressed their opposition to his anti-worker policies through song – was deemed “unconstitutional on its face” by a judge.
The governor’s heavy handed policy involved issuing tickets to hundreds of demonstrators who staged peaceful sing-alongs at the Capitol each weekday. His crackdown began in September 2012 when police issued hundreds of tickets. Many were later dismissed, but ticketing resumed last July and even caught up Jana Weaver, assistant director of Wisconsin State Employees Union (WSEU)/AFSCME Council 24.
The singers sang traditional protest and civil rights songs, occasionally changing the words to make them relevant to their opposition to Governor Walker’s anti-worker campaign. That campaign led to the revocation in 2011 of collective bargaining rights for nearly 200,000 Wisconsin public service employees, including more than 60,000 AFSCME members.
Among those who participated in the Capitol sing-along last July was Michael Crute. It is his ticket that Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson recently dismissed. Judge Markson wrote that the assembly rule Crute was charged with violating “is unconstitutional on its face.” Read the full text of the ruling here.
We sing the praises of Judge Markson’s ruling and hope it will lead to the dismissal of charges against all the sing-along demonstrators. Governor Walker’s administration already agreed to pay more than $88,000 in attorney’s fees – and to drop its restrictive Capitol assembly rule – to settle a free speech lawsuit by a protester, filed with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
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