Friday, March 4, 2011

Capitol building reopened -- a victory for democracy

A ruling yesterday creates a compromise for protesters and conservative lawmakers that leaves both sides satisfied with the final outcome.

With access to the Capitol being heavily restricted this week, protesters and unions filed suit against Scott Walker, alleging that the restrictions violated Article 1 Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution. Walker and Republicans countered that the restrictions ensured safety standards were being kept in place.

A judge ruled last night that, though protesters could no longer spend the night there, the Capitol had to be reopened to the public.

Former State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager addressed the protesters last night, telling them, "We've won this battle."

The fact that access to the building can be limited after 6:00 PM is, admittedly, saddening. But greater access to the Capitol during the day comes about from this ruling, allowing protesters to have a more direct voice with the legislators who occupy the building. As the ACLUMadison Twitter feed wrote, "the Judge's order is balanced and well-intended. Restrictions of Capitol are unconstitutional and camping there isn't free speech."

On the other hand, by limiting access to the building during regular business hours, there was a clear violation, not only of speech rights but also of Wisconsin Constitutional rights.

Scott Walker's attempts to limit democratic demonstrations in the Capitol have been thwarted by the rule of law. This is a victory for protesters, even if they can no longer stay over night there. That protesters are better able to have the ears of lawmakers within the Capitol during the day is an accomplishment that shouldn't be ignored or brushed aside.

It's ironic that this ruling utilizes the art of compromise -- perhaps Scott Walker can learn that the measure of true leadership rests within that concept.

But I won't be holding my breath for that.

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