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Policing & Protesting: Wisconsin Officers Patrol Capitol, But Join in Demonstrations

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Wisconsin police officers have participated in the Madison labor protests, not only on the job as public security, but also as demonstrators. “Law enforcement officers from all across the state are proud to stand with their fellow devoted public employees,” says Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. “We have been very impressed by how peaceful everyone has been.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is _Democracy Now!, and we are in the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. I referred earlier to this conversation that the Governor had that has now become famous, certainly through Wisconsin and beyond, the conversation that Governor Walker had, an infamous 20-minute phone call with the man he thought to be the billionaire campaign donor David Koch, who is a funder of the Tea Party movement. During the prank call, Walker admitted he considered sending agent provocateurs to disrupt the peaceful protesters here in Madison. This excerpt from the call begins with the blogger named Ian Murphy from Buffalo, New York, impersonating David Koch.

IAN MURPHY: [as David Koch] We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: You know, well, the only problem with — because we thought about that. The problem with — or my only gut reaction to that would be right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that was Governor Walker here in Wisconsin speaking with the man he thought was David Koch.

Well, on Thursday, the Madison police chief, Noble Wray, was asked about the Governor’s statement. The police chief said, quote, “I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers.” He also said something else, when asked if he was being political. He said that it certainly wasn’t him who was entering into the world of politics. He said it was Governor Walker who is entering into the world of public safety. And that’s why he felt he wanted to talk to the Governor, a conversation that, at least at this point, it hasn’t been reported that he’s had.

Speaking of police, we’re joined right now by Jim Palmer, executive director of Wisconsin’s Professional Police Association.

What is your response to this part of the conversation that has troubled so many people, the idea of the Governor having considered sending in provocateurs?

JIM PALMER: Sure. You know, our members are incensed. We’ve had law enforcement officers from all across the state come and work at these rallies and work at these events for the last two weeks, and they have been very impressed by how peaceful everyone has been. And they’ve commented that to me personally. So, for the Governor or someone on his staff to even consider doing something that could put officers or members of the public in harm’s way is extraordinarily troubling. And our members are very disturbed by it.

AMY GOODMAN: For people who aren’t familiar with unions, why is collective bargaining so important?

JIM PALMER: Well, it gives the employees a voice at the table. And we think that the people who provide the services ought to have an opportunity to provide some input on how those services are provided. We can make services delivered in a more effective and cost-efficient manner. And it really, I think, benefits everybody, the taxpayers and the local government alike.

AMY GOODMAN: Mahlon Mitchell, the head of the Firefighters Association, talking about being involved with this — firefighters are exempted. They’re not going to be hit by Governor Walker, and the same with the police. So why be here?

JIM PALMER: Yes, that’s true. Well, you know, it’s interesting, because many law enforcement officers tend to be conservative. But they know the difference between right and wrong. And they view this as completely wrong. And law enforcement officers, again, from all across the state are proud to stand with their fellow devoted public employees and oppose something that they just view as absolutely and morally wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you understand is going to happen this weekend? Hundreds, if not a thousand, people slept here last night. Tens of thousands crowd in here during the day, chanting, talking about democracy in the workplace, talking about taking back their state. At some point, they very much fear, especially this weekend, that they’re going to be thrown out. Who’s going to do this throwing out if the police are on their side?

JIM PALMER: Well, that’s a good question. I think, you know, law enforcement officers will do their job, and they’ll do it to the best of their training. I hope and have every expectation that it won’t come to that and that someone in the Department of Administration or the Governor’s Office will decide that everything has been peaceful, and we ought to maintain and keep it that way.

AMY GOODMAN: And words to police officers around the country right now?

JIM PALMER: You know, I’m being contacted by officers in Massachusetts and Ohio, and they are — everyone’s watching. And they are very supportive of what our members are doing here and our organization’s position. And again, even though we are exempted, we want to stand with our fellow public employees.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us. Jim Palmer is executive director of Wisconsin’s Professional Police Association. You represent?

JIM PALMER: Nearly 11,000 members from all across the state.

AMY GOODMAN: Eleven thousand members, here in Madison, Wisconsin. We’re going to go to break right now. When we come back, we’re going to hear from people all over Madison, Wisconsin, and hear also from the protests that took place outside of the Koch brothers’, well, a new office that they’ve opened up in town. This is Democracy Now! We’re broadcasting about the uprising in Madison, the uprising in Wisconsin. Stay with us.

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“Gov. Walker Needs to Get Over His Koch Addiction”: Labor Activists Protest Koch Brothers’ Madison Office

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