Assembly resolution to support public's right to free expression in gallery voted down on party lines
Post by Emily Mills on 10/25/2011 11:19pm
Toward the end of the Assembly's floor session Tuesday night, a resolution introduced by Reps. Mark Pocan and Chris Taylor to suspend a rule forbidding anyone sitting in the gallery from having or holding signs was voted down on a party-line vote of 35-57.
Since the protests in February, the Assembly has been instructing law enforcement at the Capitol to arrest and remove anyone watching floor sessions from the gallery if they hold signs, pin signs to their shirts, or videotape the proceedings.
Pocan argued that such a move infringes on the constitutional right of free expression. Indeed, many Democratic representatives wore buttons during the session displaying the text of the First Amendment.
Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), in her statement supporting the resolution, noted that she had never even seen a written version of the rule being enforced. Pocan later added that there was no actual rule regarding signs, but rather it was an "interpretation on the Assembly rule about decorum."
Speaking against the resolution, Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) argued that the turbulence of the protests earlier in the year, along with death threats he said he and fellow Republicans had received on even while on the floor, required that the rules be left in place.
Pocan, after apologizing that the freshmen legislator's experiences in the chamber so far had been so abnormal, went on to urge bipartisan support for the resolution: "We have to move on."
The entire floor session is viewable at Wisconsin Eye (part 4 contains this debate).
The following video, posted to Youtube by user arthurkr222, shows some of the recent arrests of people with signs in the gallery:
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at