Wisconsin Journal Times: Wanggaard wants homes off limits to protesters; U.S. Supreme Court has upheld law prohibiting it

March 26, 2011- Grab your protest sign. Grab your megaphone.

Next, make sure where you are going is legal.

The city, for one, has an ordinance against picketing in front of an individual's house. State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, wants to take it one step further and change state statute so that people cannot picket at individuals' homes in any communities in the state. Experts say the law would likely be constitutional, based on a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"The reason I'm doing this is to make this a state law because I don't think anyone should have their home be a place that should be picketed," Wanggaard said. He is not doing it to protect his own home because there is already an ordinance protecting him. Wanggaard is doing it for people in other communities, he said.

His bill was in the process of being drafted last week. Wanggaard said that after he receives the draft and approves it, he will start circulating it for sponsors, possibly as early as this week.

Recent Racine picketing

When protesters went to Wanggaard's house on Feb. 14 – the first Monday after Gov. Scott Walker proposed his controversial budget repair bill – they went chanting and carrying signs.

"Walker's Valentine's Day Massacre," one read. Another said: "Van Wan you the man, vote no."

Wanggaard said he wasn't even home for it, but his neighbors, some of whom have young children, were subjected to it.

"It's intimidating and threatening," Wanggaard said.

That first day, police stood by without stopping the protesters because patrol officers were not aware of the ordinance, said Sgt. Martin Pavilonis of the Racine Police Department.

"We had not experienced that in quite a while," Pavilonis said.

But all patrol officers have since been informed about the law, Pavilonis said, and any picketers who refuse to leave could be fined $271.50.

In subsequent days, when picketers went to Wanggaard's home, Pavilonis said protesters were told to leave. But he said he did not believe any citations were issued.

Joe Kiriaki, the executive director for the Kenosha Education Association, took part in the protest at Wanggaard's home on Feb. 14. He said he didn't know about Racine's ordinance when he and others went to picket.

If he had known he wouldn't have gone, Kiriaki said, but he doesn't agree with the ordinance or proposed law. "I think it violates our civil rights," he said. "When you run for office you agree to make yourself available to the public … It comes with the territory."

State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said the law seeks to stop people from expressing their views. Mason and state Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, said they would not support creating a state law against residential picketing.


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