A group of citizens who were quietly video recording a Wisconsin State Assembly session Tuesday were dragged out by police, even though state law clearly allows them to do so.
In fact, the first citizen to get dragged out even offered to show the cops the law they are paid to enforce.
But they already had their marching orders from Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer.
The problem was, as Kramer arrogantly pointed out, they were not abiding by the assembly rules, which he said states only credential members of the press are allowed to record a public meeting.
It’s a clear contradiction, but you would think state law would trump house rules.
But Kramer, a republican, wasn’t about to let common sense enter into the discussion.
“We speak for you, we represent you,” he told the citizens who had not yet been kicked out.
“You are guests and as such, you must comport yourselves with the rules of the body and our rules of decorum and conduct.”
Fortunately, Mark Radcliffe, a democrat, understood that they work for the people, not the other way around. And called for a vote to suspend the assembly rules.
“If they want to sit there silently and videotape us, maybe we would all behave a little bit better.
“I represent a municipal village in Jackson County, Wisconsin and I preach as a village attorney the importance of open government and getting people to participate in the process.
“And by having those people removed from this body, it precludes them from participating in this process. We may be their elected representatives, but they should have the right to sit in this body and tape what we do.
“I would ask the members of this body to suspend the rules and allow people to videotape these proceedings.”
Wisconsin State Statue 19.90 reads as follows:
Use of equipment in open session. Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.
But Assembly Rule 26 (7) states the following:
A person, other than a person specified in rule 25 (3), may not possess or use in the assembly chamber a microphone designed to pick up conversation more than 10 feet away from the microphone.
The exception listed in 25 (3) states:
Representatives of news media that regularly publish or broadcast reports available to the general public who are actively engaged in reporting the proceedings of the assembly, except that during the sessions of the assembly the privilege extends only to the designated press area.
But this group of citizens does just that; regularly publishing and broadcasting reports, as they did in May when a citizen was dragged out for doing the same thing. They have a total of 75 videos on their Youtube channel. They’ve been doing it since 2006.
They are part of the New Media and have as much rights as the Old Media.
In March, they added new rules that state the following:
In the Assembly Gallery, in accordance with Assembly Rule 26, the following is not allowed:
— Eating, drinking, smoking, talking, use of mobile phones, laptop computers, video cameras, still cameras, newspapers, bags, briefcases, signs, posters, placards, or hats.
But then again, this group has maintained a Youtube page since 2006, so they are New Media and not just “guests” as Kramer indicated.
Then they all cast votes to see if the assembly rules could be suspended, but it was overwhelmingly voted down by almost two-thirds. I won’t even begin to guess the partisan breakdown of that assembly.
The video is 15 minutes but well watching the whole thing.
Below are phone numbers and emails to contact Radcliffe and Kramer. They deserve to hear our feedback on this matter.
UPDATE: The original video was removed, so I replaced it with another video, which doesn’t show all the details I wrote about. Still looking to replace this one with the original.
UPDATE II: The original video has been reloaded, minus the footage from Wisconsin Eye, which had the video removed because they apparently didn’t want the world to see what a bunch of idiots they have running the state. Here is that video.