A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor has filed a federal suit against the state alleging its policy intended to curb demonstrations at the Capitol violates the First Amendment.
Michael Kissick, an assistant UW professor of medical physics and human oncology, is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
The ACLU filed the suit on Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
The suit, according to a news release, seeks to block the state from requiring permits for demonstrations held in the Capitol and from punishing protesters who engage in expressive activity in the Capitol Rotunda without a permit.
The case stems from September 2012, when Capitol police began arresting demonstrators who lacked permits. Kissick, in a statement, said he has since refrained from exercising his First Amendment rights at the Capitol for fear of being ticketed or arrested.
“I have always attempted to follow the law while expressing my political views,” Kissick stated. “It became impossible to be safe from arrest or citation when the Capitol police began making arrests and would not give me assurances I would not be arrested or ticketed. I resent being treated as criminal for speaking freely in a public forum. This country was founded on dissent, so I view myself as a proud American exercising my rights to engage in the most protected of all speech."
The state policy was adopted after the widespread protests against Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. The policy requires that groups as small as four people get a permit “for the purpose of actively promoting any cause” at the Capitol, including in the Rotunda, which has long been a public place for debate and free expression.
ACLU of Wisconsin legal director Larry Dupuis said, “The state’s overbroad permitting scheme burdens core political speech, which should receive the highest degree of First Amendment protection. It is preventing citizens from engaging in expressive activity and sharing their views where their leaders exercise power.”