On Wednesday night, Wisconsin state representative Robin Vos decided to head over to a popular watering hole to unwind with a couple colleagues after a long day of work. While Vos enjoyed a drink at the bar, a protester sympathetic to public-sector unions approached Vos and his colleagues, accompanied by a friend there to videotape the expected confrontation. According to the police report, the protester yelled something about “money” and “damn Republicans” before emptying a beer on Vos’s head while swearing at the legislators and calling them criminals. The suspects then quickly fled.
The MacIver Institute suspects the perpetrator is an especially aggressive protester named Miles Kristan, who has earned the nickname “pink dress guy” from a June 14 protest where Kristan donned a pink tunic. Kristan has been actively harassing Vos for weeks, appearing in a web video posted on September 9 in which he and a friend warn Vos that he has “five days” to respond to him.
While the number of union protesters has died down, the intensity of the remaining demonstrators has increased. Want to have a respectful debate on affirmative action? They’ll be there to shout you down. Want to hold a listening session for your congressional constituents? A dozen of them will exercise their “heckler’s veto.”
The beer shower incident, however, is the first time things have gotten physical between protesters and a lawmaker. Perhaps the goal is to provoke a confrontation — if a lawmaker slugs a demonstrator, that will be the headline, not the months of harassment which Republicans have been forced to endure. (I once had a beer dumped on me, and in my case fisticuffs did ensue — including me accidentally clocking my best friend on the bridge of his nose while he tried to pull me away.)
What’s almost certain is that this escalation is an outgrowth of the protesters’ capitol takeover, where college-aged kids occupied the statehouse for nearly a month and virtually nobody was arrested. Emboldened protesters now know they can do pretty much anything they want and not even get a slap on the wrist, given the compliant Democrat-run law enforcement agencies in Madison. Even if, hypothetically, a protester were sent to jail for assaulting a Republican, they’d likely be treated like a hero by corrections officers who are now forced to pay more for health care and pension benefits.
That doesn’t seem to be the case here, however, as police are only charging the perpetrator with disorderly conduct. (You would think that of all states, Wisconsin would have felony “assault with a pilsner” on its books.) Hopefully, it’s not just a matter of time before a real assault statute has to be dusted off.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.