This is one of the creepiest articles I have ever read. It reminds me of my experience being SWATted — having armed police rush into my home in what looked like retaliation for my speech. Yet in the case described in the article, the SWATting is actually being carried out . . . by the government.
In Wisconsin, citizens had cops bust into their homes with battering rams. Property was taken from their homes, in full view of the neighbors — and in some cases officers mocked them. Then the citizens were told that they could tell nobody about what had happened. If they did, they could go to jail.
All for exercising their First Amendment rights. Essentially, for being conservatives.
Here’s how the article opens:
“THEY CAME WITH A BATTERING RAM.”
Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.
She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.
“I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.
“I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”
She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee.
“I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”
What was their crime? Exercising their First Amendment rights. The article describes how these raids were conducted as part of “John Doe” investigations into whether conservative groups had “coordinated” with Scott Walker in violation of campaign finance laws. I believe such “coordination” is First Amendment activity. If I want to take out full-page newspaper ads about how great Ted Cruz is, and I get ideas that convince me from Cruz’s campaign, I believe that should be covered by the First Amendment. But even if my pro-speech view is not accepted (and so far it has not been), the fact remains that a judge later ruled that there was no legal basis for the investigation that justified these raids, and quashed all the subpoenas.
The investigations were conducted at the behest of a prosecutor whose offices “were festooned with the ‘blue fist’ poster of the labor-union movement.” According to one prosecutor who spoke to journalist Stuart Taylor, the wife of the lead prosecutor, John Chisholm, was “a teachers’-union shop steward who was distraught over Act 10’s union reforms” — and Chisholm “felt it was his personal duty” to stop the reforms. Pursuant to the politically motivated subpoenas lacking in probable cause, prosecutors subpoenaed electronic data such as emails and conducted these abusive raids.
It’s the type of activity you would expect to see from the Stasi in East Germany. Conservative activists in Wisconsin literally do not feel safe. They think that police could burst into their homes at any moment to punish them for their First Amendment activity.
In a country that actually valued freedom, this story would spark front-page headlines all over the country. It would be all anyone would be talking about for weeks, and nobody would rest until we knew it could never, ever happen again.
We are no longer such a country.
UPDATE: Thanks very much to Instapundit for the link — and make sure to check out his piece at USA Today: Wisconsin’s dirty prosecutors pull a Putin. Also, please remember to bookmark the blog and return!