Fascist Republicans are trampling the freedom of 80-year-olds in our state Capitol! Well, not quite. The story of state Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and the protester’s sign has now gone national with a report in The Hill:
Wisconsin Republican removed approved anti-Republican sign from state capitol
A Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly admitted on Friday that he inappropriately removed a sign from the state capitol that was critical of President Trump.
The Associated Press reported that Rep. Dale Kooyenga removed the sign in May as a joke and because it used language that he considered inappropriate for children visiting the state capitol to see, like the words “groper” and “damn.”
Donald Johnson, the 80-year-old man who put the permitted sign in the building, reported to Capitol Police on May 23 that it was missing and that it was worth $40.
Surveillance footage showed Kooyenga taking the sign, which was later found in his office and returned to Johnson.
The Associated Press said it wasn’t just an anti-Trump sign, and that Kooyenga planned to give it to the Department of Administration:
The report said the sign was “very critical of President Trump, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP in general.” Kooyenga said in the telephone interview with AP that the sign called all the Republicans “gropers” and said “Damn All Republicans.”
One of Kooyenga’s aides told an officer that the sign was in Kooyenga’s office, where the officer recovered it, according to the police report. Police later returned the sign to Johnson.
Kooyenga told a detective that he didn’t believe taking the sign was a “big deal.” He said he took the sign as a joke and because it contained the words “groper” and “damn” and children in the Capitol saw it.
According to the report, he told the detective that he planned to turn the sign over to the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol building and its police officers. He wasn’t aware the sign was permitted, he said.
Kooyenga released a statement which apologized for taking the sign but not for trying to improve the decorum of the Capitol:
“Earlier this year in May, I removed what I believed to be an inappropriate and unattended sign from a vestibule near one of the entrances to the Capitol. The sign contained profanity which was easily read by anyone in the vicinity and in fact, a school group was gathering where the sign was located. It was my assumption that unattended signs that contained profanity would not be allowed to be posted in the Capitol so I
removed the sign.
In my view, the sign was inappropriate in several ways and I felt it should not be in plain view of the scores of school children who were touring the Capitol at that time.
It was not my intention to cause harm to the owner of the sign and I returned it immediately when I was asked for its return. I am sorry I took the sign without permission however I am not sorry for trying to uphold appropriate decorum in our State Capitol. I believe we are all better by abiding to a higher level of civility and decency.”
So the bottom line to this whole story is that a legislator saw an unattended sign that was inappropriate for children and removed it. This is not a First Amendment issue. Kooyenga didn’t destroy the sign or put it in the trash like any decent janitorial crew would have done. Instead he hung onto it, intending to turn it over to the Department of Administration.
The protesters have absolutely no concern for the public that actually visits the state Capitol. If they did, they would actually take into account that children are touring the Capitol everyday and keep their protest signs appropriate for all ages.
This is just another story where the protesters are being coddled as they make the Capitol a hostile environment for tour groups and the people who actually work in the building. We have witnessed tour groups with children actually yelled at by the protesters. And if a Republican state legislator leads a tour group through the Capitol, they can expect their group to be followed and eventually harassed by a protester. Where is the respect of the protesters for the rights of others?