Today was the third time we’ve been expected to go to court to simply enter our intial pleas for our brief occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol on August 25. That was the first day state employees’ paychecks were cut after the Republican-led Legislature & Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill was implemented, gutting workers’ salaries and benefits. We were told we’d be entering preliminary pleas for the charges of “unlawful assembly.” When we arrived, it was news to us and the attorneys representing us that some of us were actually being tried today for (peacefully) resisting arrest.
We were presented with the following opportunity: agree to a signature bond wherein we would agree to not violate any statutes or administrative rules inside the state Capitol until our next court date – two months from now – or go to jail immediately, for ten days. If we sign and then were to violate, we’d be immediately eligible for 9 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Since we are committed to fighting and resisting a blatantly corrupt and immoral majority in the Legislative and Executive branches of our state government, this seemed an outrageous compromise.
The court’s proposal applied to four of us who were present: Thi Le, CJ & Damon Terrell, and myself. Two other people could not be with us this morning – Jenna Pope had an allergic reaction to the pepperspray we were hit with at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. two days ago. She went to the hospital last night. The other person, Jeremy Ryan, was put on the no-fly list while in D.C. for Occupy D.C. & the October 2011 movement, so he’s still on the east coast.
Thi, Damon and CJ thought it’d be better to take the jail time now than risk far more serious charges over the coming months. Having just returned from five days in Washington, D.C. late last night, I simply cannot give up these next ten days due to a number of personal obligations. This will most likely fuck me much worse long term – “agreeing” to this signature bond could feasibly mean jailtime for those nine months and face that $10,000 fine simply for holding a sign on the second floor of the Capitol, where they’re banned.
The Department of Administration has rewritten rules at random and on the fly, reacting to our protests since our occupation of the Capitol ended in March. We know they’re trying to ensnare us deeper; this is why the other three could not agree to this signature bond release in good conscience.
The court system has been playing with us for some time. Warrants were put out for some of us last week when we were informed after the fact we’d “skipped” our court date – a date the state and the D.A. themselves had rescheduled. We feel they are trying to make an example out of us to further discourage people from reacting to a perverse system that is doing its best to crush citizens’ rights under its heel.
I never thought I’d shed tears in court for not going to jail, but I feel tremendously guilty today knowing my three dear friends have been imprisoned, and I was forced into an obscenely compromised position. Thi was just unjustly taken to prison two days in Washington, D.C. Both Thi and CJ were just peppersprayed full-on in the face on Saturday afternoon, trying to enter the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. They received no warning from the police. Thi was arrested simply for walking in the door, after a conservative would-be “journalist” assaulted a security guard in the lobby of the museum.
I personally could not be much more furious after these last few days’ events. I urge you to join people in Wisconsin and across the world who are committing their entire being to standing up and fighting back against these outrages.