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COMMENTARY: Police gave pro-Walker protester a lesson in irony

By   /   June 4, 2012  /   No Comments

By Will Swaim| Special to Wisconsin Reporter

Will Swaim

Wisconsin Reporter journalist Dustin Hurst’s powerful video of police arresting a pro-Walker demonstrator has gone viral. And with good reason: There’s something powerfully symbolic about the arrest by unionized police of a man peacefully protesting the impact on Wisconsin’s budget of public-sector pay and benefits.

Today, Examiner.com identifies the man as David Willoughby, son of Florida Tea Party founder Barry Willoughby.

“Without being told what I had done, I was handcuffed and escorted off premise. Placed in a squad car and taken to a police station,” Willoughby reportedly wrote in an email obtained by Examiner.com.

“I asked if I should have my rights read to me and was told, ‘You’re not being arrested.’ My personal property was taken from me, I was fingerprinted, mug shot taken and locked in a dark jail cell, lights off, still handcuffed,” Willoughby reportedly said.

According to PJ Media, the arrest report says, “subject raised a protest sign above his head in a manner that created danger to the public. Subject’s actions caused a disturbance during a political rally.”

PJ Media says the citation carries a $185 fine. Willoughby reportedly has a July court date.

Hurst’s video of Willoughby’s non-arrest is painful to watch for its multiple ironies. It came at a rally hosted by former President Bill Clinton and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Scott Walker’s opponent in Tuesday’s recall vote. Both men have made civility — and Walker’s supposed lack of it — a centerpiece of the recall. And, sure, the video makes clear, anti-Walker demonstrators make the peace sign — even as they chant, yell at and attempt to provoke Willoughby.

But most ironic is the very fact of Willoughby’s detention by Milwaukee police, whose luxury pay and benefits are — or ought to be — at the heart of the controversy that led to the recall. Another irony: though their benefits are inarguably among the most luxurious among public-sector workers, Milwaukee police are exempt from provisions of Act 10.

Shortly before his arrest, Willoughby challenges the anti-Walker hecklers — says collective bargaining is “a privilege not a right,” but it’s “a privilege that’s bankrupting Wisconsin.”

And then, of course, he gets a lesson in irony — is taken into custody by two men whose privilege has earned them the right to retire at age 50, men who will collect nearly 100 percent of their annual salary and health benefits each year for the rest of their lives.