It has been almost four months since Wisconsin governor Scott Walker won his recall election, which was prompted by a year-and-a-half-long battle with public-employee unions. Since Walker’s victory on June, the bright TV camera lights, most of the reporters, and the overwhelming majority of protesters have left the state capitol building.
Yet the most hard-core protesters remain, having been distilled down to a group of unemployed malcontents determined to irritate and cajole. With nothing legitimate left to demonstrate against, they wander the halls of the capitol, angrily berating people trying to work in the building.
For 40 years, Dick Wheeler was the dean of the Wisconsin capitol reporters. When he passed away last year, hundreds of people gathered under the dome to pay bipartisan homage to his work. Upon his death, his daughter, Gwyn Guenther, took over The Wheeler Report, a service that alerts readers to press releases and goings-on in state government.
According to a police report, on July 9 of this year, Ryan stood outside the capitol press room — now named the Dick Wheeler press room by legislative action — and mocked Guenther over the death of her father. Ryan sang “Wheeler is dead” over and over in a baritone voice until other reporters in the room called the police on him. (The report notes that when Guenther gave her statement to the police, she was very upset and had been crying.)#more#
Despite the fact that Ryan’s harassment targeted reporters, none of the writers present actually mentioned the incident in any stories (although the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had mentioned Segway Jeremy at least three times in previous articles about protesters). Associated Press reporter Todd Richmond testified to the police in Guenther’s defense that if something wasn’t done about the protesters inside the capitol, “Eventually someone is going to get hurt.”
That scenario became more of a possibility with the recent installment of Dave Erwin as capitol police chief. For months, capitol workers have complained about the lack of control the capitol police have exerted over the protesters. Erwin, intent on reversing that trend, recently advised females working in the state house that if they felt threatened, they should try “punching” protesters with their free hand.
— Christian Schneider is a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.