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Walker Backers Call Foul by Milwaukee Police in Freeway Bridge Eviction

Group says Milwaukee police harassed them and ordered them to get off footbridge over I-94, while those holding Barrett signs were allowed to remain on another bridge.

A group of supporters of Gov. Scott Walker is claiming harassment by at least one Milwaukee police officer and preferential treatment for backers of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett after an incident Friday evening on an interstate highway footbridge.

During the incident, they said, a 16-year-old boy was singled out and handcuffed in front of his father, and held there until all the adults left the bridge.

A member of the group took a video showing that the police could not immediately come up with any reason for evicting them before eventually locating an ordinance against loitering.

But another video taken the next night by Barrett supporters on another Milwaukee bridge shows members of that group reading their legal grounds to Milwaukee officers and being allowed to stay.

The grassroots group of about 30 Walker supporters gathered at about 4 p.m. at the footbridge across Interstate 94 near North 72nd Street. Members planned to stand on the bridge with large pro-Walker signs until about 7 p.m.

Such events have been commonplace in recent elections. Mary Goodman, one woman who was present, said she had been at many such bridge rallies dating back to Walker's election as governor in November 2010.

What's more, she said, Barrett backers have been doing the same thing night after night leading up to Tuesday's recall election with no response from police.

Goodman and others present said that around 5 p.m., two Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies arrived and told them they had to take down some large signs that had been propped against the bridge fences. Signs could only be hand-held, they said, and could not lean against or be attached to the fence.

Members of the group took those signs down and removed them, they said, and the deputies told them it was OK to continue their rally.

Milwaukee police had problem with the signs

But at about 6 p.m., they said, a Milwaukee police sergeant arrived and told them they had to get off the bridge.

"His attitude was belligerent from the moment he arrived," said David Arnot, who was there with his son. "Without trying to speak with the organizer first he almost immediately called for back-up.

"Many in the group were trying to ask what reason they had for removing us, considering a Democratic group does the same thing every night, but he had no answers and only became louder and more belligerent," Arnot said.

Within two minutes, Arnot and members of the group said, more officers began to arrive, until 10 more were present.

Goodman said some of the adults on the bridge were complying with the order and leaving, some were picking up their things, and some were arguing with the sergeant about why they should leave.

She and Arnot said that all the adults on the bridge were spoken to in general terms, as a group, and while they were all warned, none of them was confronted individually with orders or threatened with arrest.

Why was teenager handcuffed?

Goodman said she turned around just in time to see the boy being handcuffed.

Arnot said his son was at his side assisting another Walker supporter with a large sign.

"After the arrival of the other officers," Arnot said, "the sergeant took a few steps towards my 16-year-old son, who had been helping hold a sign. He singled him out, the only minor on the bridge, pointed at him and barked, 'Are you leaving this bridge?'"

Arnot acknowledged that his son said "No" to the officer before immediately being handcuffed, but he said all his son was trying to say was that he wanted to stay with him while they collected their signs and belongings.

"He (the police sergeant) clearly said, 'You're under arrest,'" Arnot said, "but he wouldn't say for what, even though we kept asking him."

Melissa LeClaire was standing a few feet away, she said, and she corroborated Arnot's account. She believed the boy was singled out because he was a minor.

The sergeant "took him to the side of the bridge and told us he would be released when we all left the bridge," she said. "It was a hostage-taking."

Calls and emails to the Milwaukee Police Department were not returned before 5 p.m. Monday.

Arnot said he tried to videotape the detention of his son, but he failed to capture it.

Another Walker supporter at the rally did tape more than nine minutes of video taken at the end of the bridge once everyone had moved off it, and it appears to corroborate that even by then none of the officers present could cite any statute or ordinance barring the citizens' presence on the bridge.

Eventually, an officer called in to headquarters and asked for a citation supporting the eviction, and came back with an ordinance barring loitering on a bridge.

Walker backers question fairness

The Walker supporters said they were disturbed that they would be ordered to leave a bridge when a pro-Barrett group called "The Light Brigade" regularly holds bridge rallies in the twilight holding brightly lighted LED signs spelling out "Recall Walker," "Vote for Barrett" and other messages without harassment.

That group has even produced a professional-quality video touting its efforts.

The Walker people said that they were told repeatedly that their presence constituted a danger to traffic safety — a distraction to drivers — but they were given no reason why Barrett backers or, for that matter, Harley-Davidson lovers who do the same every five years, should be treated differently.

After most of the rally-goers had dispersed, Goodman said, she needed to go back across the bridge to her car and the sergeant told her she would be arrested. But other officers told her to go ahead, just not to come back that way.

Another Walker supporter wanted to cross on his bicycle because he lives on the other side of the freeway, LeClaire said, and when he started out with his Walker sign, the sergeant stopped him.

"He said, 'Not with that sign, you can't,'" LeClaire said. "It was at that point that I realized this really was about who we were and what we believe, that it was bias."

LeClaire said that after the video and various accounts were posted on web and social media sites, she had seen some responses from Barrett supporters also condemning the police action.

"I appreciate that," she said. "Even though we don't agree, we're all Americans first and foremost."

Raven June 05, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Craig, based on the video, are you quite clear on which group was "well behaved" vs "screaming"? It was specifically the "well behaved" group that was left alone. The confrontational group got a predictably confrontational response from police. They could have avoided it by better behavior. BTW, some of their supporters' comments here are really good examples of things <b>not</b> to say to police in face-to-face encounters: "jackbooted cops locked in goosestep," etc.
James R Hoffa June 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM
@Raven - Do you have a JD? Are you a bar licensed attorney? In fact, Hoffa holds a JD, an LLM, and is a bar licensed attorney. And guess what, lawyers are humans with emotions, just like ordinary citizens. Now, most lawyers would remain calm in such a situation, but not all. In reality, most lawyers would also not engage in dictating to the police how to do their job, as they have no legal authority to do so. And if the police are violating someone's rights, the lawyer would definitely allow it to occur, as opposed to trying to stop them, as they'd be more interested in the subsequent civil suit against the police department and the media attention that such a lawsuit would generate. So please, keep it real!
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 07:02 PM
@Raven-Have you taken your medication today? I think you have forgotten to take and you know what happens when you miss a dose!!!!
James R Hoffa June 05, 2012 at 07:02 PM
@Patriot - Actually, this entire Chapter applies solely to bridges over waterways, and even then, only bridges in certain areas throughout the city, as is distinguished in the first few sections. Hence, the cited ordinance did not even factually apply to the situation of a bridge over a roadway. Is MPD serious??? Their officers can't even distinguish the difference between water and a roadway??? This is a classic case of failure to properly train! I hope they sue!!! Barrett and Flynn have some explaining to do and apologies to make
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 07:06 PM
@Hoffa-Thankyou for looking researching that a little more than I!! I just quickly looked up the ordinance that the officers issued and thought it was quite disturbing that they did not even know the particulars of that ordinance!! Then I was out the door. Again Thank You. Im just amazed at how polarized we have become in the last year and a half. Amazing!!! Gov Walker all the way!!! Finally a politician with NADS
Raven June 05, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Craig: With the number of cars that pass under a freeway overpass bridge every 5 minutes most of the day -- and doubtless when sign-holders would bother to show up -- the potential victim count in the event of violence is much higher than for "shots fired" in most neighborhoods. Police have to assess each group: will they stay peacefully holding signs the whole time, or will they progress to a more violent demonstration? An angry, aggressive response to the initial police approach is a good hint. You can see on the video: this group responded angrily, aggressively. It's a bad symptom; what would hours of boredom done for such tempers? Watching all those cars go under them, would such angry people have lashed out at the drivers by dropping stones or bricks, as other bored and angry bridge-standers have done, causing multiple deaths and freeway crashes? That's one disaster police try to avert. The other group, with an established peaceful, non-aggressive behavioral record, was just less of a worry. They didn't confront police so angrily. There were no warning signs of potential violence. Simply put, they didn't act like thugs.
Raven June 05, 2012 at 08:15 PM
[i]"there is RUMOR that there is a mole in the Waukesha County Clerk's office put there to disrupt the vote tally and cause confusion so Waukesha's vote is questioned."[/i] That would be Kathy Nickolaus.
Craig June 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Raven: I started laughing until I realized you were serious. There were more cops than sign holders, and there was no threat of violence. Not a single person took a crap on a squad. I doubt there was any worry one of them would drop their ass much less a brick. It boils down to double standards, plain and simple. If it were the Barrett camp kicked off the bridge there would be a riot, and Jessy Jackoff would show up- THAT is the reason for the double standard.
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
@Raven- Please removed your head from the sand you will suffocate
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Speaking of Jesse Jackson I hear he had a whopping 6o people. 300 for the MSNBC clown and 900 for Clinton. Hmmmmmm yes u all claimed to have 1 million signatures, but only 600,000 votes during the primary? Hmmmmmm how many citizens for prosperity on Sat? Can you say 4000
albanynyguy June 05, 2012 at 09:10 PM
I bet you didn't know cops do this-did you? _______________________ "Another Walker supporter at the rally did tape more than nine minutes of video taken at the end of the bridge once everyone had moved off it, and it appears to corroborate that even by then none of the officers present could cite any statute or ordinance barring the citizens' presence on the bridge. Eventually, an officer called in to headquarters and asked for a citation supporting the eviction, and came back with an ordinance barring loitering on a bridge."
Bren June 05, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Mr. Hoffa, it appears this was an impromptu (not pre-reported to authorities) gathering on a footbridge. The police are required to respond to public safety complaints and determine validity/course of action. Other posters have pointed out that belligerence escalates and contributes to the decision of what happens next. As you know I've watched hours of Occupy live feed and observed what can only be described as police brutality, administered under the guise of minor city ordinance violations (Oakland, New York City). (Knocking individuals off of bikes, striking videographers with batons, pepper spraying bystanders, etc.). We may not appreciate police presence when it is inconvenient to us, but it is never prudent to display belligerence or confrontational behavior as the woman on this video has done. The police would have been completely justified in escalating this confrontation to obstruction of justice, loitering, disturbing the peace, etc. As I said, commonsense "gutcheck." Ask the officers where you may stand, better still, call in before you march/occupy to determine what's possible.
Bren June 05, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Isn't this just a bit overstated? Apparently these folks didn't check beforehand whether or not this was an appropriate place to protest, someone contacted the police (noise? blocking the bridge?) or they were spotted from below. Instead of being cooperative they became belligerent. It's never a good idea to do something controversial without knowing your rights and options.
Bren June 05, 2012 at 09:39 PM
We are also reading hearsay evidence about what else occurred. It's unclear from the video precisely what type of bridge they are standing on. It may be that the officer who provided the ordinance was also unclear about the type of bridge, etc. Again, I have seen Occupiers arrested for similar/lesser behaviors (unlawful congregation) than exhibited on this video. My questions are 1) how the police came to be at the scene and 2) why so many officers are present. I believe in free speech and the right of assembly. But as I wrote above, the rights of others must also be respected. It's interesting how some people are outraged about this incident while expressing none at the new state law requiring parties of four or more to acquire a permit before entering our own State Capitol (unless you are a family or a coven of lobbyists).
James R Hoffa June 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
@Bren - I understand your point, and it is a valid one. But the FACT that pro-Barrett people were engaging in exactly the same activity without the police shutting them down is prima facie evidence that something more is going on here. As far as I'm aware, last year's bridge protest in Milwaukee was not permit approved, nor were any of the recallers so-called light brigades over the last year and a half. And again, they were allowed to exercise their 1st Amendment rights freely on public bridges within the jurisdiction of the MPD. But the moment a pro-Walker group mirrors that activity, the police show up and shut it down - come on - even you have to admit that this smells! From watching Occupy, you must realize that people have emotions and can get heated, especially when they perceive that their rights are being violated. While the woman in the video does get loud, at no time does she come off as being anything other than upset and certainly does not display any signs of becoming physically violent. So please, drop that crap. They just wanted to know what law it was that they were supposedly violating and how their activity differed from that of the pro-Barrett people. This info would be usefully in determining where they could legally engage in such activity, would it not? And the MPD cited them an ordinance that pertains only to bridges over waterways. How would you feel and react under such circumstances?
James R Hoffa June 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
@Raven - You're a day late and a dollar short on that one - Kathy is sitting out this election. Sorry, but you're going to have to come up with a new boogeyman to cry about tomorrow after Walker demolishes Barrett!
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 09:53 PM
@Bren-Again why are you not able to submit to the facts. The ordinance quoted by the officer dealt with a bridge over water!!! A draw bridge Bren!! It was clear that the bridge in question was not over water. This goes hand in hand with the fellow marine that was arrested
James R Hoffa June 05, 2012 at 09:55 PM
The cited ordinance pertained solely to bridges over waterways. Are you telling us that the police couldn't clearly see that the bridge in the factual situation presented was over a roadway, and not a waterway? I guess all of those officers should be fired for stupidity then, right? After all, if they can't even tell the difference between a roadway and waterway, well… that just scares the hell out of me allowing them to keep a badge!
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Can you say police state? Nanny state? Now drones coming to your neighborhood and soon. Thats what makes the lefties feel all warm and fuzzy
Patriot June 05, 2012 at 10:04 PM
@Bren-Isn't it a bit scary to be hassled by law enforcement when they dont even know the ordinance they are saying your violating? Then when they quote and or provide an ordinance it is the wrong one
Mike Walsh June 06, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I support these officers. They have no obligation to show lenience towards people bent on discrediting their worth to society by supporting wage cuts, retirement benefit cuts, etc. The lack of integrity shown by republican Walker supporters is breath taking. I guess it should be enough for rich folks to just thank peace officers for serving and protecting them. If they want benefits they should of had the sense to be born to a rich familiy like they are. The Nerve of some poor people right!!!
Patriot June 06, 2012 at 12:11 AM
@Mike-Well you seem to be super intelligent!! Was not aware that wages and benefits were affected for Police or Fire!! Regardless buddy as a private sector tax payer the one who pays all u public entitlement seeking low lifes wages its about time I have a say!! While my health care costs increase every year you feel entitled to just bargain for more wages to offset the bad economy iwhile again my health care goes up as well as everyday cost of living. Hmmmm seems very one sided there buddy!! CLOWN
Bob McBride June 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
They have no obligation to show lenience towards people bent on discrediting their worth to society by supporting wage cuts, retirement benefit cuts, etc. *************************** They do, however, have an obligation to enforce the law even handedly, regardless of whether or not they view those they come in contact with as supporting them politically. If you're suggesting otherwise, you don't get it. If you're suggesting otherwise and you're a public employee, you're part of the problem.
Pudge June 06, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Jim-was that Patch's video that was posted regarding the Barrett rally? If I recall, it was taken by someone in attendance, not Patch.
Raven June 06, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Greg: In fact, I rarely watch TV. James: I wrote that the lawyer would "do the talking with police" (but "know not to make it a dominance face-off"); and "know how to negotiate with police". In echoing this back, you rendered it as "dictat[ing] police procedure, protocol, and judgments" and "dictating to the police how to do their job". Did getting your JD and LLM not result in your learning the difference between negotiating and dictating?
Raven June 06, 2012 at 06:58 AM
@Mike Walsh: Imagine if you'd been some solitary non-police-officer target of their wrath -- say, a middle-aged schoolteacher -- caught off on a side road somewhere. A confrontation like that could be rather scary, especially after all the death threats that were made after the recall petitions were created.
Mike June 06, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Bren, Admit it. Doulbe Standard. I don't even want to hear your fanasty-land spin on the governors great victory last night after a year of hearing how the people will speak with their vote. Thank god it was never even close. Victory was evident within the first hour of reporting results. This is what DEMOCRACY looks like again.
Truth June 06, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Just wait till Walker goes after Police and Fire bargaining rights. Then we will see a Riot!
James R Hoffa June 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
This story should not die! Here's the most ironic, hypocritical, and damning evidence against Barrett and his MPD yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UE249ah5K4 This is one of Barrett's own ads!!! Not only did he have knowledge that this was going on, but he actually appears to be endorsing such activity within the context of the ad. Apparently though, such activity constitutes a violation of city ordinance 118-62 when Walker supporters engage in the same. BTW, 118-62 applies solely to bridges over waterways, and while the Walker supporters were on a bridge over a highway, one can clearly see a bridge over the waterways being utilized by the Barrett supporters - and yet, Barrett didn't send in the MPD to stop them from breaking the law! Not only is Barrett's MPD so incompetent that they can't distinguish the difference between a waterway and a highway, but he himself is corrupt in allowing such a double standard to occur - especially when he had full knowledge of it!!! WE DEMAND JUSTICE AND A PUBLIC APOLOGY FROM MAYOR TOM BARRETT!!!
Greg June 11, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Seeing as how Milwaukee can not differentiate between a lake and a toilet, I kinda expect them to be confused with the bridge issue.

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