Can I set my stuff here?

I think there was a time, not too long ago, when one could have set a couple of innocuous items on the first floor balustrade in the Capitol rotunda without attracting undue attention.

But that was before a bomb threat at the Capitol, death threats to lawmakers, harassment of legislative staffers and reporters, tickets being issued for sing-a-longs, protests, signs and banners, and the occupation of the Capitol. In other words, before Act 10.

Not allowed

Not allowed

Thursday, just prior to attending a lengthy press conference regarding Capitol protests, I did set my travel mug and umbrella on the balustrade while I sent a text message. I hadn’t been standing there very long when a Capitol police officer approached and politely asked me to remove my items. “We have to, you know, because of the protests.”

I was reminded of what Emerson said about consistency, but that’s not really fair. In the hyper-vigilant environment we’re now in, it’s not that far-fetched to suggest that my infraction could be fodder for finger pointing, maybe even a formal complaint, as in “you let him leave his stuff there but issued a ticket for my sign.” At some times of the day, activity in the Rotunda gets videotaped, by police, by activists, or both.

So that’s where we’re at in the Wisconsin Capitol these days, and it doesn’t look as if anything is likely to change. While the ongoing protests still seem freighted with great significance for the participants, for most everybody else the point of fatigue was passed long ago. I just want to be able to set my stuff down.

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