Felony Charge Recommended For Wisconsin Protest Photographer

After being brutally handled by Wisconsin Capitol police, a protest photographer is being threatened with felony battery of a police officer.

The capitol rotunda in Wisconsin had been peaceful for some time until out of the blue during this summer, citizens who had been showing up daily for singing protests were suddenly ordered to stop, or face arrest.

And so the daily arrests began. On Monday, the arrests were particularly brutal -- although this certainly isn't the first time -- and Walker's palace guards have definitely been escalating their aggressive stance against the musical protests.

The arrests in the video above, of Christopher J. Terrell, 25, and his brother Damon Terrell, 22, were especially violent and according to reports may lead to felony charges for Damon.

The Journal Sentinel reports:

"From video made by protesters of the arrest, it was not clear what started the altercation. The footage, taken by another frequent protester and arrestee, Jeremy Ryan, shows Damon Terrell backing away from an officer before the altercation.

Officers turned Terrell over and one of them pinned the protester to the ground with his knee on the back of his neck and handcuffed him before carrying him out of the rotunda.

Stephanie Marquis, speaking for the Department of Administration, said in a statement, "Both individuals refused to leave and actively resisted officers when they were placed under arrest.... When officers began to arrest Damon Terrell, he began to walk away and actively resisted arrest."

She said one officer suffered an unspecified injury but declined to disclose it, citing medical privacy concerns.

In addition to the tentative charge of battery of a police officer — a felony — Damon Terrell is facing misdemeanor resisting arrest charges. His brother is being tentatively charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and assembling without a permit."

The felony charge being recommended to prosecutors is the most severe since the Wisconsin labor protests began in February 2011, and since police stepped up arrests during the noon protests one month ago.

The arrests of the Terrell brothers weren't the only violent arrests on the part of police on Monday:

Here's a view from the balcony of Capitol police offers as they pursue Damon Terrell for photographing and observing arrests, and as they apply "pain compliance" in the arrest of his brother, C.J. Terrell. At least two others are also arrested in this clip.

According to a witness, "Damon Terrell was merely observing when the police approached him. They had just arrested his brother, who sat down passively and continued to sing. Damon put his hands up and visibly tried to back away. As he did, they ran at him, tackled him hard to the marble floor, immobilized him, shouted at the singers who were quite obviously disturbed by the brutality of the handling, and picked him up, running down the hall in a phalanx as if they had just apprehended a violent criminal."

As noise of rain writes at Daily Kos:

"They've arrested priests, firemen, old ladies, old men, children, and countless citizens who feel that we shouldn't need to get permission to protest our elected government. The whole thing is beyond embarrassing for the state, and for the United States. Every time they take it up a notch, a score or more singers appear the next day. Is it fair to ask why the police have been unusually brutal (compared with a lot of aggressive arresting in the last month!) with two young black men? Is it because Damon "disrespected" an officer by questioning authority? Is it because they were singing? Is it because the cops have absolutely no idea how to handle the situation, and are looking to try to escalate the peaceful singers to violent response, so they can demonize them?"

I couldn't say for certain why the sudden escalation of violence on the part of the capitol police is happening, but the Journal Sentinel article did note this:

"Also Monday, 21 Democratic lawmakers called for auditors to look into the circumstances surrounding the 11.7% pay increase that Gov. Walker's administration gave to the Capitol Police chief earlier this year.
...
In a letter sent Monday to the co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee, the Democratic lawmakers asked Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake) to have the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau look into the raise for Erwin, part of which was retroactive.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration has disputed that it violated any state personnel rules in awarding sizable pay raises to Capitol Police Chief Dave Erwin and his top deputy after moving the pair on paper to phantom jobs for two weeks and then back to their real positions.

Erwin, who has overseen a crackdown on Walker protesters at the statehouse, received an overall salary increase of $11,680 a year, with the first $720 of that coming retroactively.

In the letter organized by Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee, the Democrats said a rule in the compensation plan put forward by the Walker administration for state workers states that changes to employees' pay cannot be made retroactively except in very limited circumstances."

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Erwin was given a nice pay increase just before the aggressive tactics against the Solidarity Singers began.

A final note, those "Walker protesters" are taxpaying citizens of the state of Wisconsin...and they vote, too.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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