Friday, September 16, 2011

Protester douses Rep. Vos with beer

Speech rights aren't protected when actions become harassment

I recently wrote a post regarding Rep. Robin Vos’s distaste with Madison police, and how his consideration (alongside that of Glenn Grothman’s) to stiff the city of Madison of reimbursement for the officers’ service (which these lawmakers deemed inadequate) was inappropriate. More on that in a later post as well.

For right now, I feel it's also necessary for me to comment on another event involving Vos, one in which he was the victim this time around.

A Racine-area protester who has frequently protested against Rep. Vos turned himself in last night for pouring beer on the Republican legislator in a Madison bar earlier this week. He was charged with disorderly conduct, and was issued a citation by Madison police.

You'd be hard-pressed to find me telling anyone that their form of protest is inappropriate -- even those I disagree with politically have the right to confront their lawmakers about issues they feel passionately about. But when your version of protest becomes harassment, a line has been crossed. When your actions interfere with another person's life (through threats, direct violence, and yes, even beer) you cross that line and your speech rights are no longer protected.

Furthermore, these actions become fodder for conservative foes, who see these acts as justifying their warped views of the protesters in Madison, who have for the most part been peaceful. It's hard enough to defend the movement's goals to someone already so hard-headed -- it makes it nearly impossible to do so when someone from "our side" does something as foolish as what Miles Kristan did to Rep. Vos.

We should continue to find creative was to protest the mess that Walker & Co. have put us into. But harassment of individual lawmakers is not the way to carry out our goals.

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