By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Miles Kristan strolled about the Capitol Rotunda earlier this week toting a bundle of red, heart-shaped balloons.
He glided peacefully among the dozens of protesters calling for Gov. Scott Walker’s political head — "Recall Walker! Recall Walker!” — during the noon sing-along, a demonstration of solidarity that has become a daily ritual in the rotunda.
On Tuesday, the first day of the fall session, more anti-Walker demonstrators assembled than had in sometime, each trying to make his voice heard, the cacophony of protest song and cheers reverberating through the people’s halls.
A smaller group of tea party members and Walker supporters mostly stood by and watched the show.
Back to Kristan — why was he carrying those balloons?
“To show love for the workers of the state,” he told Wisconsin Reporter. He said there’s been such a balloon in the building since Valentine’s Day, about the time things turned hateful at the Capitol.
Kristan allegedly showed little love for state Rep. Robin Voss, R-Rochester, on Wednesday night at a Capitol-area bar.
The 26-year-old Kristan, believed to be from Racine but officially listed on police reports as having an unknown address, reportedly approached Voss and fellow Republican state representatives Scott Suder and John Nygren at Inn on the Park, 22 S. Carroll St., shouted out something like “money” and “damn Republicans,” and dumped a beer on Voss’ head, according to a Madison Police report.
The lawmakers told police Kristan swore at them, calling them criminals.
Kristan was accompanied by an unnamed man with a video recorder, the report states.
Voss told police he did not know the suspect's name, but a female Capitol employee, who was with the group, provided police with a name. Police could not locate Kristan on Wednesday night.
Wisconsin Reporter could not find a phone listing for the accused man.
On Thursday afternoon, Kristan turned himself into police. He was cited with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and has an upcoming date in court.
He could face three months in jail and a $1,000 fine if found guilty on the criminal charge, described under state law as anyone engaging in “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud, or otherwise disorderly conduct … which tends to cause or provoke a disturbance.”
It’s an enhanced charge due to Kristan’s previous troubles with the law, Madison Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain told Wisconsin Reporter on Friday. Police reports say Kristan became agitated and verbally abusive to officers while being warned during a We Are Wisconsin march up State Street parade on Aug. 25.
Kristan was arrested on vehicular charges after he and Elias Groth drove vehicles on State Street during a parade. Vehicular traffic generally is prohibited on the pedestrian-friendly street.
“Kristan was described as being visibly upset, slamming his hands on his vehicle, and making statements (in) reference the admonition by police to being equal with that of the feces of male steer!” stated the police report, obtained by Wisconsin Reporter.
The two were warned.
Later, police found Kristan and Groth driving their vehicles behind the parade processional, the report states. Officers stopped both vehicles, and cited the men.
“Kristan felt that he had been singled out, and enforcement options were unfairly selective,” the report states. “Madison Police did not have any other issues with other parade participants during this event.”
DeSpain said Kristan has a record of violations, including a charge of obstructing justice, and he has received a ticket for graffiti and has been a suspect in at least one other property crime.
“He’s been on our radar, even as we’ve arrested him and cited him in August and arrested him" Thursday, the department spokesman said.
Free speech too far?
Voss told police Kristan has repeatedly harassed him since February.
Wisconsin Reporter could not reach the lawmaker for comment Friday, but he did release a statement regarding the reported assault.
“While I have long been a proponent of free speech, it’s a shame when the expression turns into criminal behavior,” Voss said. “Legislators are regularly harassed by certain (protesters) and this is an unfortunate reminder of what lawmakers have to put up with every day in Madison."
The spring legislative session, which witnessed tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets around the Capitol, included several disturbance arrests and some reports of harassment and threats.
State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Madison law enforcement is partially to blame for what he describes as the escalation of disorderly and dangerous conduct by protesters around the Capitol. He said top law enforcement have been "more interested in cooperating with protesters than enforcing the law."
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said in a statement that he would not comment on the political nature of the protests.
On Tuesday, walking the rotunda with his string of balloons, Kristan spoke confidently of a campaign to recall Walker, and praised the “respectful conversations” he’d had with “tea party people.”
“I think the citizens can find common things to agree on,” he said, “but I don’t know about the ruling political party in this state compromising on anything.”
The MacIver Institute, a conservative Madison think tank, grabbed a video interview with Nass that was made available late Friday.