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Suit filed over Wisconsin labor protests

Feb. 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM

MADISON, Wis., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin professor said he's suing the state after being told he couldn't participate in protests at the capitol building without risking arrest or fine.

University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor Michael Kissick alleges the Wisconsin Department of Administration and Capitol Police have violated his constitutional rights to free speech and due process after fellow protesters were cited for violating a permitting policy while participating in a weekly "Solidarity Singalong" in the capitol rotunda.

Kissick said he asked police what he could do to avoid getting a ticket for participating in the event and was told any protest group in the Capitol needed a permit.

"The permitting process has been in place since 1979, and it is there to coordinate and share the Capitol with other users," DOA spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said. "Both state and federal court cases have found that permit requirements are constitutional and do not infringe on free speech. All groups must follow the permitting process, and the Capitol Police issue hundreds of permits each year regardless of political party, affiliation or content."

But Kissick alleges police aren't enforcing the rule fairly. He argues it's up to officers to decide what constitutes a "protest" -- defined as a group of four or more people gathering together to promote a cause, the Wisconsin State Journal said Tuesday.

Kissick's suit, backed by the ACLU of Wisconsin, says that standard is overly broad and content-based.

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