On June 6th two journalists were arrested at the state capital in Madison, WI. I was one of them. I was grabbed by an aggressive and very escalated police officer after walking in to the state capital on June 6th. Officer Corcoran told me to leave, to “get out”. It was bewildering because I was already in the building and was simply walking by him filming my way in to the rotunda. He grabbed me aggressively. I told him, in the friendliest voice I could find, that I was with the press. He let me walk by. I recognized him from the many times I have been in the building over the past four months covering the gentle uprising as it develops and unfolds around Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget repair bill.
Alex Noguera-Garces was assisting me this day, she was also stopped. I told Corcoran that she was with me and was a member of the press. Initially he let her through. When she stayed behind to film his treatment of citizens as they entered the building he grabbed and arrested her. She was hauled away in handcuffs. It came to my attention that she was being taken away. I went to her aid and when I explained that “I was a member of the press.” Corcoran let me know that “I could go too,” referring to jail and being arrested like Alex. Alex was in taken to an elevator. While inside, before the doors closed, she handed me her camera that was dangling in her hand, likely to fall given the situation. I accepted the camera. At that time Corcoran dropped Alex to the ground, lunged at me from the elevator and tackled me. The excessive force he used left bruises on my arms and hips. Corcoran never gave me a straight answer as to why he grabbed me or why I was being arrested. He changed his story three times between the time I was in the elevator with him and while he processed my and Alex’s charges in the basement.
While in the basement I was pushed around by another office. Literally. I was standing talking on my cell phone, calling for support and an officer came in to the hallway, pushed me from behind, shoving me against a table and told me to “calm down”. Is this the new way that reporters and citizens can expect to be treated in the Wisconsin State Capital?
The environment was hostile. The exertion of arbitrary authority was overwhelming. Cops were pushing citizens and journalists around because they think they can get away with it. We must let them know that journalists and citizens alike will not be pushed around, we will not tolerate the use of excessive force simply because someone is wearing a badge. We do not have to leave a public building simply because a man or a woman with a gun and badge tells us to do so. We are critical thinking individuals; we have the right, the ability and the obligation to challenge authority. Eventually we were both charged with disorderly conduct, given a $263.50 fine and a court date slated for June 17th. The officer that escorted us out marked us with a blue sharpy. Giving us a blue X on our right hand. He told us we could not re-enter the capital that day. More people were arrested on Monday than in the days when thousands of people occupied the state capital in February and March.
The following day I filed a complaint with Corcoran’s superior, requesting that he be removed from the first line of defense in “protecting” the people and the capital. I suggested that maybe he be given a few days off as he was clearly over-extended in his ability to maintain a clear head and make smart choices while under pressure. I learned that he was not working that day and that he would also have the following day off. Perhaps his superior was already savvy to his need for a break. Monday, June 6th was a significant day as it was the first day the Wisconsin Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the legal challenge to the controversial state law that strips collective bargaining rights for public workers. More than a thousand people paraded around the capital calling attention to Walker’s budget stating that it is “a death sentence to the people of Wisconsin.”
My work in Wisconsin will continue. In addition to weekly video news stories, I am making a documentary film about the gentle revolution that exists here. I hope it continues to be gentle and that the brave people of Wisconsin will continue to stand up strong and set an example for the rest of the country.
Sam Mayfield, is working on a documentary film about the gentle uprising in Wisconsin. For more information visit her blog: http://samville.blogspot.com/