Politics

To Settle Lawsuit, Wisconsin Agrees to Stop Requiring Permits for Protests

To settle a free speech lawsuit, Gov. Scott Walker's administration agreed Tuesday to pay more than $88,000 in attorneys fees and drop its hard-and-fast requirement that larger groups protesting in the Capitol receive a permit.
October 9, 2013
 

To settle a free speech lawsuit, Gov. Scott Walker's administration agreed Tuesday to pay more than $88,000 in attorneys fees and drop its hard-and-fast requirement that larger groups protesting in the Capitol receive a permit.

The Walker administration faced a federal trial in January over the permitting requirement as part of a lawsuit brought by a protester with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. Under Tuesday's agreement, the state Department of Administration would keep its permitting rules in place but also would allow up to five days of demonstrations if protesters simply give the state two days' notice.

Michael Kissick, the University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of medical physics and human oncology who brought the lawsuit, said the settlement provided a significant shift in how the state handles demonstrations. Instead of having to ask permission, now protesters can simply provide a heads up, he said.

"If you're going to have a party, you might give a courtesy call to your neighbor," he said. "You don't ask permission. ... It's neighborly."

The state agreed to pay $88,271 in attorney fees for Kissick and a woman who sometimes sings Christmas carols who was later added to the lawsuit. Both sides said the state was required to pay the fees under federal civil rights law.

A stipulation to dismiss the case because of the agreement will be submitted to U.S. District Judge William Conley in coming days.

The settlement comes after 21/2 years of frequent protests that grew out of opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's move to end most collective bargaining for most public workers. Those demonstrations have at times prompted clampdowns by the police, most recently this summer.

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