Cieslewicz rebukes Walker for talk of disrupting demonstrations
Governor Scott Walker told a caller this week that he "thought about" sending in troublemakers to disrupt demonstrations outside the state Capitol.
That's got Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz furious.
"The governor of Wisconsin actually thought about planting people in the crowds who might turn these peaceful protests into something ugly?" declared the usually easy-going mayor.
"For the governor of our state to suggest that he even considered disrupting these peaceful protests is a serious thing," continued Cieslewicz, who says that the governor needs to explain his talk of deliberately inciting trouble at the Capitol.
At one point in the phone conversation, a caller who identified himself as billionaire David Koch, a Walker ally and campaign supporter, asked about "planting some troublemakers" to incite the crowds at what have been peaceful protests. The caller was actually Ian Murphy, a blogger who goes by the name of the Buffalo Beast.
"(We) thought about that," replied the governor, who added: "My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems."
Here's Mayor Cieslewicz's response:
"Our police department estimates that maybe a half million people have come through the Capitol Square in the last 10 days. They've come with high emotions, and there have been counter protesters. So you might expect trouble. Instead, what we've gotten is high civic engagement and peaceful protest. We have not had a single arrest over the course of the protests.
"And we're neat, also. I stop and chat from time to time with the Capital Concourse crews who clean the Square, and they tell me that the place is cleaner than ever. People are taking care of the municipal lawn as well as their own living rooms. Last night when I was inside the Capitol, the protestors organized a cleaning hour, clearing out of the rotunda to allow the sweepers and mops to come through. We're living up to our reputation for Midwest politeness.
"But I find it disturbing that Governor Walker apparently considered disrupting the protests. A transcript of a faux call to the governor from a man he believed was conservative icon and top Walker donor David Koch finds "Koch" offering to help Walker out by, "planting some troublemakers" among the demonstrators. Walker's reply:
"'We thought about that....'
"Really, Governor, you thought about that? The governor of Wisconsin actually thought about planting people in the crowds who might turn these peaceful protests into something ugly?
"The Madison Police Department, the Dane County Sherriff, the Capitol Police, UW Police, State Patrol and dozens of police departments from around the state deserve credit for acting so responsibly, as do the protestors who have been incredibly well organized. The tone has been just right. For the governor of our state to suggest that he even considered disrupting these peaceful protests is a serious thing. We need to hear more from him on exactly what he meant. I hope the media will keep after it."
Madison police chief asks Walker to explain 'troubling' statements
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray Thursday asked Gov. Scott Walker to explain his "troubling" and "unsettling" statements captured in a secretly recorded phone conversation that he "thought about" planting troublemakers among the thousands of peaceful demonstrators at the Capitol.
The protests, heading into their 11th day, are aimed at a bill Walker proposed to strip most bargaining rights from state and local unionized employees in Wisconsin.
"I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker's response, during his news conference yesterday (Wednesday), to the suggestion that his administration 'thought about' planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill," Wray said in a statement issued this morning." I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members.
"I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers. Our department works hard dialoging with those who are exercising their First Amendment right, those from both sides of the issue, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they can demonstrate safely.
"I am concerned that anyone would try to undermine these relationships. I have a responsibility to the community, and to the men and women of this department — who are working long hours protecting and serving this community — to find out more about what was being considered by state leaders."
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie pointed to Walker's statements at the Wednesday press conference.
"People have brought up all sorts of different options," Walker said." As you saw if you've listened to the tape, we shot that down."
Walker added that it was his "biggest fear" that opposing protesters would clash last Saturday. But in the phone call with what Walker thought was a campaign supporter, the governor did not mention public safety but said such a tactic could backfire on his effort to pass his budget-repair bill.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says out-of-staters account for “almost all” in Madison protests
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got right to the point when he was chatting Feb. 22, 2011, with a prank caller pretending to be a major Republican power-broker: The protests in Madison are dying down.
And changing to mostly out-of-state residents.
In the secretly-recorded call, Walker assured a New York blogger posing as industrialist David Koch -- a contributor to Walker’s campaign and many GOP causes -- that things were under control at the Capitol.
"Well, we’re actually hanging pretty tough," Walker said in the call, which was taped and made public Feb. 23, 2011. "I mean, you know, amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters almost all of whom are in from other states today."
We know Wisconsin is awful popular these days. And the battle over the budget-repair bill is national news. But are "almost all" of the protesters in from other states?
We asked Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie about the not-intended-for-the-world-to-hear statement from his boss.
He sent us two links to news stories from over the weekend -- one from the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and another from the Decatur, Ill., newspaper.
Here’s what the Feb. 21, 2011, blog post in the Weekly Standard said: "Labor groups and Democratic Party organizations from outside the state have been sending people to Madison for the demonstrations."
It went on to note an e-mail from the Chicago Teachers Union, which said it was sending a bus Feb. 21, 2011, to Madison. The union’s twitter feed posted a message the evening of Feb. 19, 2011, saying: "CTU Supports Wisconsin Workers. Get on the bus Monday."
Meanwhile, the Decatur paper reported Feb. 22, 2011 -- the day Walker made his comment during the non-Koch call -- that Illinois union leaders were sending protesters to Wisconsin.
"A number of Illinoisans have headed to Madison in recent days to join the battle over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's effort to end collective bargaining for public employee unions," the paper reported.
"The Illinois Education Association, the state's largest teacher union, reports it has sent 14 staff members to Wisconsin to help organize members in their fight," the story said. It went on to say another union -- Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- "has a number of staff members on the ground" and was sending a two bus loads on Feb. 22, 2011 and one on Feb. 23, 2011.
OK, fair enough. That’s a few bus loads accounted for -- albeit not all on the day of Walker’s phone conversation. And, of course, there surely were other out-of-state protesters that day.
But "almost all"?
The crowds in Madison did drop on the day of the call. After several days of school district closings around the state due to teachers calling in sick to attend protests, the vast majority of teachers were back in the classroom. Milwaukee and Madison school districts reopened.
We did a little more investigating to learn: Who are these protesters?
Of course there’s no one checking ID cards, and no way to come up with a definitive percentage, but there are ways to gauge the makeup of such crowds.
The Journal Sentinel has had reporters and photographers on the scene day and night since the protest began. We looked at dozens of pictures from protests Monday night and Tuesday, taken by Journal Sentinel photographers (You can see some of these pictures here.)
We saw many signs and clothing that suggest Wisconsin protesters -- Badgers and Packers attire, a sign mentioning Janesville, signs mentioning the Madison teachers union and so forth. One man wore a T-shirt from the Shoe Box, a Madison-area store.
However, that man, Thomas Brown, is from New Mexico. He came back to visit family near Madison. We won’t count him as an out-of-state agitator.
We did see signs such as "Michigan Supports WI workers," and one that read "Coast to Coast Solidarity" that mentioned California and New York. On Feb. 23, 2011, when Teamsters President Jim Hoffa spoke, signs for Chicago Sheet Metal Workers were evident and there were Teamsters from other states present, according to news reports and Madison police.
We sent a Patrick Tricker, a reporter for the UW-Madison The Daily Cardinal, through the crowd the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2011. It was day two of the state Assembly’s marathon vote on Walker’s measure, which involved hundreds of Democratic amendments.
In an informal survey, Tricker spoke directly to 26 protesters in the Capitol rotunda. About a fourth of the 26 were from out of state, half from Madison and the remainder were from other parts of Wisconsin. He found one from California and one from Alaska.
That’s nowhere near "almost all."
Finally, we asked law enforcement for their take.
"The vast majority of people protesting are from here -- Wisconsin and even more from Dane County," said Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department.
How would DeSpain know?
"I grew up here," said DeSpain, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked 25 years as a television journalist in that city before taking the job with the cops. "I know Madison, this is my town,"
DeSpain said he has seen friends, family members, people he has known for more than 30 years attending protests. The crowds on Feb. 22, 2011 -- the day of the Walker phone call -- included hundreds of state corrections officers and Madison police officers, he said.
Said DeSpain: "Unless somebody’s giving them all sorts of t-shirts from Wisconsin" these are local protesters.
Let’s bring this item home.
In his not-so-private phone call, Walker claimed protests were getting smaller and almost all of the protesters at the state Capitol were there from out of state. Certainly there are folks there from far and wide. But there’s no evidence the out-of-towners have taken over. All evidence points to this being -- and remaining -- a home grown effort.
We rate Walker’s statement False.
Also, mods.....wondering if we could get a "Police ftw!" (or something else postive regarding police) tag. Seeing as we have the negative angle covered already, it'd be great when we can highlight the occasions when they do the right things, too.