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From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Madison protesters have yet to pay fines
Madison - Since February, Jeremy Ryan, 22, has been arrested nine times and has been issued 15 citations totaling $3,604.50 for protesting and disrupting events at the Capitol.
So far, he hasn't had to pay a cent.
According to the state Department of Administration, 41 people have been arrested a total of 59 times since massive protests over Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill began Feb. 13. The most common charge for those arrested was disorderly conduct - a charge that can be civil or criminal.
Besides Ryan, one protester has been arrested four times and another has been arrested three times.
"No one's had to pay anything," Ryan said of the citations he knows of so far. "I don't even know why they end up writing them in the first place, to be honest with you."
Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated at the Capitol on many days in February and March, largely without problems. Since then, peaceful protests have ranged from a noon singalong of pro-union songs to a persistent trumpeting from one lone protester equipped with a vuvuzela.
But a handful of protesters at times have crossed the line from seeking to protest Republican policies to harassing GOP officials or disrupting legislative work.
Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said the same small group of protesters tends to cause disruptions and get arrested, but the majority of protesters have been civil.
"The protesters who have been here for a lengthy period of time have pretty much remained cooperative and followed the rules and laws of the state," Tubbs said. "People have the right to express their constitutional rights, but they do not have a right to violate the rights of others."
Ryan's attorney, Jim Mueller, said he does not think the Dane County district attorney's office will prosecute his client's disorderly conduct citations.
"I expect most, if not all, of them will be dismissed," Mueller said.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, said that wasn't necessarily true. He said that he wasn't familiar with most of Ryan's citations but that in one of them at least his office is seeking more information.
"The fact that he hasn't been asked to pay yet wouldn't necessarily mean anything" in an ongoing case, Ozanne said.
Ozanne said that he believed most of the citations issued by officers such as the Capitol Police and State Patrol at the Capitol would come to his office. The cases take time to move through the system, he said.
"We try to address them as quickly as possible," Ozanne said.
Many actions by protesters don't lead to citations.
On one occasion, a Journal Sentinel reporter observed a demonstrator speaking to and then shouting at Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) as they crossed paths in a Capitol stairwell. Seizing on reports that the senator had been engaged in an affair, the protester asked for the telephone number of Hopper's "girlfriend," with the protester saying he believed she would welcome his advances.
During one Joint Finance Committee session, a protester sat holding up a sign with a sexually suggestive message on it that was directed at Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who is 67 years old and married.
Shortly afterward, Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) approached and spoke with the man and he then took down the sign.
On one occasion, a protester stormed onto the floor of the Senate while it was in session.
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said that he had been appalled by the treatment of senators and in particular Darling.
"I think there is a class of people who lives to get a disorderly conduct ticket. It is a badge of honor of certain leftists in Madison, and they do disrupt things," Grothman said.
In a statement, Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) praised demonstrators for showing an engagement in politics that was unprecedented in his more than 25 years in office but also cautioned that with the right to free speech "comes the personal responsibility to do so without putting others' safety at risk."
Ryan is the executive director of a group called Defending Wisconsin, which says on its website it has raised $2,295 to recall Walker.
He is one of a group of demonstrators who has decided civil disobedience is the best route to dispute the actions of the Legislature. Ryan and his fellow protesters routinely follow Republican lawmakers around taunting them.
"We usually just yell 'shame,' " Ryan said. “ They either get really upset and start swearing at us or just keep walking."
With the Legislature poised to pass the state budget this week, Ryan said such civil disobedience is one of the few resources protesters have left.
A group of protesters came under fire Wednesday for dressing as zombies and silently protesting an appearance Walker made at a Special Olympics ceremony outside the Capitol. While Ryan himself did not participate in the protest, the 12 "zombies" formed a line between the Special Olympians and the governor and silently stood there for the duration of Walker's speech.
While Special Olympics officials have said the demonstration was not disruptive to the athletes, many people on both sides of the budget debate saw this act as crossing the line.
Janet Ramsey, a medical laboratory technician for UW Hospitals and Clinics and a member of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, has said such protest tactics do not help the cause that state union members are trying to further.
"It's taking away from what the Special Olympics do and putting a bad mark on what we're trying to do," Ramsey said.
Ramsey differentiated between union members who are protesting Walker's budget and the protesters involved with the zombie demonstration.
Brian Austin, a board member of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, said the outrage of Walker and many GOP officials over the zombie demonstration was hypocritical.
"It is offensive to me that the governor finds fault with what the Special Olympics officials described as a respectful and non-disruptive display, yet he has no qualms with cutting programs families of special needs persons rely on," Austin said in an email.
Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.