Petitioning on the Capitol Square by Ann E. Fleischli

Posted June 16th, 2014 @ 8:42 AM by

Ann’s account of her arrest for collecting signatures about the James Doyle Square Hotel and TIF.

You’ve probably seen me standing on the lip of sidewalk on the Capitol Square at State Street. I am the short old lady, wearing a straw hat with the words Citizen Law written on a broad paper band taped to the hat band. I am wearing a black knit shirt with white pieces of paper taped to the front and to the back of the shirt. My body says “No Hotel Subsidy” front and back. I look ridiculous.

This is my third Saturday Farmers’ Market on the Square. It’s June 14, 2014, 10:00 a.m. I am collecting signatures for a city law that we hope to get on the ballot in the fall. I announce to the people streaming by me, “Stop the latest hotel scam. Same developer, different hotel. What do you want to use public funds for, a school or a hotel for a hotel chain?”

The proposed law, written by citizens, puts a cap on public subsidies for private projects of ten million dollars. Ten million and over of public funds will require the proposal be put on the ballot for Madison residents to vote up or down. That will stop these scams we think.

Someone who didn’t like my spiel walked up to me and told me to get off the sidewalk. He was wearing a greenish golf shirt.

“What?” I asked. “I am exercising my constitutional rights, petitioning.”

“No.” he said. “You have to have a permit from the Capitol Police.”

“I am not on State Capitol grounds; I am on the public terrace area of the sidewalk. Thank you for your advice but no thanks.”

Three signatures later, about 10:30, a black uniformed Capitol Policeman tells me to leave. I say no, repeating what I told the golf shirt. He says to give him my identification. Laying down the two clipboards I dig out my drivers license.

He calls for backup and officer Michael Syphard walks up to me. He’s at least 250 pounds and has, count ‘em, at least eight different tools attached to his belt. He says, “Move across the street.”

I repeat my message to the golf shirt. He puts handcuffs on me, very tightly behind my back. He grabs my left arm and walks me up the steps to the State Capitol. His litany begins. He’s tired of people like me wasting his time. He says he bets I came to the Capitol Square to get arrested. I tell him no and I repeat what I told the golf shirt. He tells me to shut up. I am under arrest and shut up.

I complain that the left handcuff is very tight, very painful. He tells me I am making that up and to shut up. He is very, very agitated. Very, very angry. I mention that I am a lawyer and that what he is doing is not legal.

He explodes about how I am breaking the law and he is arresting me and to shut up. He hurries me into the State Capitol and we are going down a dark, narrow metal stairwell and I ask him to slow down because he is hurting my left wrist and I can’t see with the sun glasses and the old lady trifocals. He says he doesn’t care and he’d stop my fall before I hit the concrete wall ahead of me. I stumble over the last step and he’s propelling me faster and faster through a labyrinth of hallways. I tell him this is painful and I’m glad I am also a journalist because I have a good memory for details like his brutal behavior and, by the way, what is his name. He says he will provide me with that information. I twist my body to see his badge. We stop before a small square room that has an American flag behind glass in a case that illuminates when the lights are turned on.

He directs me to a chair and tells me to sit down. I ask that the handcuffs be removed because they hurt. He says he doesn’t care and pushes me down into a chair, at which point I scream with pain and straighten my body. He shoves me back down and I scream and then comment that I think there will be bleeding from that.

He says I am lying and he leaves, shutting the door. Another officer opens the door and stands in the hallway, watching me. I get up to relieve the pressure from the handcuffs and notice that there is blood on my chair. I walk toward the officer and he tells me to sit down and I point out the blood that is now on the floor and the chair.

He looks at my wrists behind me and asks his microphone radio coiled around his neck for Band-aids. A uniformed woman named Ann Johnson arrives with gauze and Band-aids. She asks the hallway officer to remove my left cuff and, looking at the wound, I see my skin has been peeled back from my fingers near my knuckles. I ask Ann what is that white material I can see in the wound, tendons? She asks if I want an ambulance, this is standard procedure for an injury, she says.

Ah, I say, that would cost me quite a bit, wouldn’t it? She uses her radio mic to ask for tape and a roll of gauze to make it tight and stop the bleeding. She asks me if I am on blood thinner because I am bleeding so much.

No, I say, I am old, when you manhandle old people they bleed profusely, like I am bleeding.

Officer Syphard comes into the room with a roll of gauze along with another officer, Steven B. Mael. Syphard says I threw my body to the floor and injured myself. I tell him, looking at Mael, that he, Syphard is making that up. I say that from the beginning Syphard has been angry and brutal toward me, and now, I say, he is proving himself to be dishonest. Syphard is every citizen’s nightmare.

Syphard says he is un-arresting me. I say, sure, now you see the lawsuit, don’t you? You don’t want any record, do you?

After Ann has wrapped my hand as seen in the accompanying picture, I walk up to Syphard and say looking up from my almost-five-foot level. “You are the most brutal man I have ever dealt with.” Mael laughs and says you haven’t seen much, have you.

In hindsight, writing this, I realize I missed the state takeover by Walker. I was in Montana earning that journalism degree. I missed the transformation of Wisconsin into a state where fascist police now muscle us around. I now completely understand Madison’s hatred of Walker.

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