Free speech at $50 an hour

Gov. Deadeyes is apparently trying to find a way to keep those dirty hippies from showing up for all these annoying protests at the state Capitol.

His solution? Charge them for it.(Check out the policy)

According to the MJS, Scott Walker’s administration has decided that it will hold protestors liable for any costs associated with their free speech.

Yes, that’s irony.

Or stupidity.

Or a Constitutional violation.

Or maybe a shithead trifecta.

In any case, the policy took effect Thursday and will have a “learning period” through the middle of December. The goal, the administration notes, was to clearly identify current rules and establish ways to provide “equal and continuous access for all Wisconsinites to their state buildings in a way that is reasonable and safe.”

This is what the administration considers “reasonable” as per the policy itself:

Groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings and apply for those permits at least 72 hours in advance. The policy requires permits for 100 or more people outside the Capitol. The policy does provide some leeway for spontaneous gatherings triggered by unforeseen events.

I know we’re the Dairy State, but let’s not print our laws and edicts on Swiss cheese. Look at what this is saying:

– Four people (or 1/5 of the Duggar family) acting in concert are at risk of violating this rule if they show up in the Capitol and do ANYTHING without a permit that was sought at least 72 hours in advance. The policy explains that the state police receive hundreds of permit requests per year and that the processing of the event permit can take upwards of a month. While state officials note that there will be no enforcement of this based on the political position taken by the speech, I’d bet that if the Scott Walker Fan Club showed up unannounced to rally for the governor, they wouldn’t be fined or forced to apply for a permit.

Of course that’s probably because there’s only three people in that club at this point and one of them works in the building…

– The policy is nebulous in about 812 areas, not the least of which is this variable known as the “spontaneous event” clause:

Permits are required for any event occurring in any area inside or outside of a state building unless the event is a bona fide spontaneous event. This paragraph does not apply to events occurring on the State Capitol Grounds.

How, pray tell, does one determine to what degree this is a “spontaneous event?” And who gets to make that determination? Is a flash mob a “spontaneous event?” Theoretically, it should be as the underlying purpose of a flash mob is for random people to show up and do something “Glee” like in front of others and then disappear. That said, if you look at the wording of this notice, you could clearly make the argument that it’s not spontaneous, as someone has planned it, promoted it and people have engaged in it. Basically the things that the policy outlines as being fineable.

– The rule extends beyond the steps of the state buildings and appears to be able to levy costs against people who are in anyway involved in anything that might end up possibly being a protest:

Individuals or organizations that organize (note: love the redundancy), sponsor, promote or participate in an event may be held jointly and severely liable for law enforcement expenses arising out of the event.

So, it’s not just the big dirty hippie with the bull horn they want to fine but pretty much anyone who helps get people to show up, anyone how tells other people about the event or even shows up at the event. An even more insidious reading of that rule indicates that if you were to pass along emails about a protest, communicate about a protest or in any way get near this thing, you could be liable. Who gets to determine what levels these people are liable for costs? How exactly are you going to bill them?

Obviously, lawyers are going to enjoy smacking the administration around on the issue of free speech, which if has to be government approved and then you have to pay to do it isn’t really free. However, this also violates a second tenet of the First Amendment: the right to peaceably assemble. While the courts have held time, place and manner restrictions can be applied to the Amendment, this fails to fit any of those limitations as the policy is overarching in terms of its requirements and should fail to pass the laugh test.

And of course, forcing people to pay for police presence that they don’t want anyway will likely lead to less-than-peaceable assembly. Which of course is what the state wants, so we can have pictures of no-gooders punching “real citizens” on the news (this time without the palm trees in the background) and the “taxpayers” can cluck their tongues at these protestors and wonder what’s wrong with this country.

10 thoughts on “Free speech at $50 an hour

  1. And just how much taxpayer money is the Walker administration going to waste on defending this ludicrous and vile statue in court? But it’s OK, any amount is justifiable as long as it prevents Scotty from being forced to interact with the great unwashed.

  2. But imagine the howling from the wingnuts if similar “reasonable and safe” regulations were applied to other constitutional amendments, e.g., the Second.

  3. The Koch brothers and Pete Peterson are definitely getting their money’s worth out of ALEC and Walker.
    Whole thing has probably cost them less than the overtime paid to the police for Walker’s actions.

  4. Yeah, MichaelF, it would be utterly crazy to put a “transfer tax” on firearms, that would be used to fund police ballistics labs, firearms safety training, aarming cops, and ER operations.

  5. Holding elections costs a lot of money; we should start charging people who show up to vote.

  6. It isn’t enough that they are arresting people for exercising their constitutional right to assemble but now they will charge them for the “law enforcement expenses” of being arrested?
    Yanno, they already pay for that with their taxes. User fees, I guess, to help pay for those tax breaks for the corporations.

  7. So: tours of the capital by fourth graders? Groups testifying before the legislature? Square-dancers? Three humans and two seeing-eye dogs? All need permits?

  8. Ya sure. I’ve got your permit right here. Want me to drop my pants and show you? 😛
    That’s why it’s fucking inalienable, you assholes.

  9. Funny that’s exactly what the Governor of Tennessee tried to do when he decided to oust Occupy Nashville protesters from Legislative Plaza. Backfired on him BIG TIME.

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