Reporter arrests would never happen in Madison…outside the Capitol
As I tried to leave, I was told by the same blond female officer to “stay put.” I told her I was leaving and attempted to exit the building. I was then surrounded by officers, and told to remain still or I would be arrested.
I didn’t move, but I tried to get the attention of a group of cab drivers who were standing nearby. At this point I was arrested.
I spent the remainder of the day in a cell in the basement of the building. I was released at about 4PM.
In many of these cases, the arrested reporters have been working for mainly ideological outfits. Vermont-based freelancer Sam Mayfield, notable for her arrest at the Capitol this month, should not have been arrested. But she’s been pretty vocal since the arrest and, based on her Twitter feed, she’s pretty unabashedly anti-Walker. Epstein and Pete Tucker, who runs an independent local website and once worked for Pacifica Radio, both work for political or activist publications.
This, of course, doesn’t legitimize their arrests or the curtailment of free-speech that the arrests represent. But so far these arrests are only used as rallying cries in certain communities. Mayfield’s incident was only more fuel for the anti-Walker fire, while this week’s arrests in Washington bring back memories of a similar event last month at the Jefferson Memorial. In both cases, United States Park Police officers made the arrests.
But until a cop arrests Jessica Arp or Bob Woodward for taking their iPhones out at an open meeting, public attention will never rally behind reporters. It’s a shame since these incidents should spark a serious discussion about free speech and the 1st Amendment’s current state. But frankly, people don’t care.
Luckily, I’ve never had to worry about anything like this happening at a public meeting in Madison. People on even the smallest committees are encouraging enough to the press (and tolerant of sometimes excruciatingly naïve student reporters) that a similar arrest at a Madison city meeting is unthinkable.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about a meeting at the Capitol.