When the video (below) opens you see Rep. Peter Barca, the Dem minority leader (who’s fought hard against the GOP’s Gestapo tactics in Wisconsin so far this year), being interrupted by protests from the public audience.
But the protests aren’t against Barca or his statements; they’re against the capitol police who are removing that person because he’s videotaping the session.
State law allowing such videotaping has been on the books since 1977, though (Statute 19.90, also referred to as the “Wisconsin Photographers’ Bill of Rights”).
“Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting,” it reads. As long the photographer isn’t interfering with the session or its participants, he or she is allowed to film, and without need for permission beforehand.
After the citizen with the video camera gets removed, the session is then delayed by one who appears to be speaker pro tempore Bill Kramer, who requests other attendees in the gallery to put cameras away.
Next, in a not clearly audible statement, a woman from the gallery sounds as if she stipulates Statute 19.90 in defense of those citizens, but the assumed Kramer only responds with “that’s nice.”
He then tries to justify his forced removal of those Wisconsin citizens by citing something completely different – the state’s Assembly Rules, which were last modified earlier this year. “Under Assembly Rule 26, only credentialed members of the press are allowed to use recording devices in this chamber; guests may not,” he says.
But the assumed Kramer is wrong, and in two different ways. First of all, he’s citing the wrong rule. The only portion of Rule 26 that seems in any way relevant states “a person…may not possess or use in the assembly chamber a microphone designed to pick up conversation more than 10 feet away from the microphone.” In other words, only the assembly can decide to amplify any discourse of a session, and no one can try to secretly broadcast it within the chambers. And it specifies “microphone” – it doesn’t say camera or video recorder.
Second, the rule he must have been thinking of isn’t pertinent, either. Assembly Rule 25 (“Admission to the floor of the assembly”) reads that only “representatives of news media that regularly publish or broadcast reports available to the general public who are actively engaged in reporting the proceedings of the assembly” are allowed on the assembly floor. But it has no restrictions on anyone – even non-media – from being present with cameras in the gallery, which is where these ejected persons were sitting.