Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The saga of the popped balloon

Image courtesy of Shakey Illustraions
When considering Wisconsin politics one must never conclude that they've hit the bottom of the stupid barrel. Just when you think it can't get sillier, they demonstrate that they have a boundless capacity for the bizarre and ridiculous.  

During the summer protestors would gather in the rotunda in Madison and to protest songs, chant "who's house - our house", indulge in paranoid theorizing about the Koch brothers and eventually release red, heart-shaped helium balloons to drift up into the dome.

The balloons began to grate on the nerves of the Capital staff. They were very difficult to get down, and there were fears they would damage the paintings on the dome. Finally one day late in July Ron Blair, the state Department of Administration's assistant facilities director, snapped. 

Well, actually he snapped at least once earlier, Meade over at Althouse's had previously posted a video  him acting like an typically belligerent rent-a-cop who acted like a putz throughout their encounter and even pushed Meade at one point.   

But I digress, back to July 25th, 2011, a protestor named Leslie Peterson was standing in the rotunda, attending the sing-along and holding a red, heart-shaped balloon when Ron rushed at her from behind with a utility knife, popped her balloon, some how cut himself in the process, until finally the two ended up crashing through the door of a restroom in the ensuing fracas. The Blue Cheddar blog posted an eye witness's account:
Jenna says that she was standing with Leslie when Ron approached “out of nowhere”. Leslie was holding a heart-shaped balloon that according to a @joevittie tweet, she had brought to give to a legislator. Jenna says Ron rushed at the balloon and popped it and then darted down a back stairway. In the course of the action Jenna says he did not say anything she could clearly hear, though he may have been mumbling.

Jenna says they were on the 2nd floor of the Capitol and he ran down to the 1st floor. She and Leslie followed close behind yelling at him and asking him why he popped the balloon. Jenna said he stopped at the 1st floor and turned. At this point they were very close, only “a couple of feet away” from Ron. Jenna says Ron lunged at Leslie grabbing her wrists and throwing her into a bathroom door. The force of the lunge was enough to push Leslie into the bathroom and he also came in the room with her. Jenna says that at this point Leslie started to scream and call “Help!”.

Police found Ron Blair at a clinic where he was getting his hand stitched up. He was placed on administrative leave pending and investigation and, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, he was charged with misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon for using the knife and slamming her against the door. He faces up to 9 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Yesterday, in the article Protester sues Capitol worker who popped her balloon, the Journal Sentinel reports that -- what else -- she's filing a law suit. Claiming "he violated her constitutional rights by popping her balloon" and the Journal Sentinel states her "lawsuit filed last week alleges Blair violated Peterson's free speech and due process rights and subjected her to unreasonable search and seizure."

Yes, yes, he's a lout, should get fired from his job and get slapped with probation and a fine, but a civil suit? Civil rights violations? 1st Amendment issues? Seems like she's buttering the bread a little thick with that list of claims.

Also, aside from a popped balloon what sort of damages is she asking for? Bear in mind, after he popped her balloon she chased after him, so its not like she was in mortal terror for her life or anything. Ah well, a Madison jury is sure to give her oodles of money to stick it to the man.  

At any rate, the comment thread of that last linked article is a hoot. It has devolved into the usual internet food fight all of their political threads arrive at sooner or later.

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