More on the Wausau incident:
Wed, Mar 26, 2003
Chief to officers: Protect protesters
By Joel Christopher Wausau Daily Herald firstname.lastname@example.org
Wausau Police Chief Bill Brandimore took steps Tuesday to ensure that officers are protecting the rights of war protesters.
Brandimore acted after an incident Monday in which witnesses said a man assaulted a war protester on the south side of the Marathon County Courthouse.
Police who responded said both men would face disorderly conduct charges, but Brandimore said later that only the man accused of committing the assault, Casimir Krasowski, 63, of Wausau would be charged.
Police officials questioned officers who responded and witnesses about how the incident was handled, and Brandimore sent a memo Tuesday to officers reminding them of their obligation to protect demonstrators.
Many residents were upset that protesters Mike Wallschlaeger, 39, of Mosinee and Wayne Olson, 64, of Wausau had been carrying upside-down, defaced American flags since military action against Iraq began last week.
Wallschlaeger said at least one police officer who responded said he would not protect Wallschlaeger in the future, and another told him that the best response to another threat was to leave the courthouse area.
Brandimore said he explained in his memo what kind of protest activity is protected by the First Amendment.
"The Supreme Court says what the Constitution means, and burning or defacing the flag is expressive speech which is protected," Brandimore said. "We're sworn and duty-bound to uphold the Constitution."
Meanwhile, Wallschlaeger said he will not continue his protests, which have gone on every weekday since before Christmas.
"I don't want violence and McCarthyism, and that's what we've seen," he said. "It's not only the physical confrontations, it's the ramifications to my business."
Wallschlaeger, who runs a contract delivery service, would not say what effect the protests have had on his business.
Although Wallschlaeger is not continuing the protests, Olson said he intends to keep going.
"I came to the conclusion that I'm protecting my constitutional rights and I'm going to keep doing it," he said.
Olson spent the first 15 minutes at lunchtime protesting alone, but he was joined by Gerry Whipps, 63, of Wausau, who said he was angered by news reports about the alleged attack on Wallschlaeger and decided to join the protests.
Whipps has a son, Jonathan, who has been in Kuwait since February with the U.S. Army.
"My wife and I are pro-peace and pro-troops, but I can't be more distressed than I am that someone would use violence against someone who is essentially anti-violence," Whipps said.
The war protests also drew Cassie McLain, 49, of Wausau to the triangle during lunchtime. She showed up to give Cokes and encouragement to the demonstrators.
"I find it interesting that the pro-war group here flies the flag when these gentlemen (the war protesters) are supporting what this country stands for," she said.
"I don't think war is the answer to terrorism, and I appreciate the fact that these demonstrators have been out here every day making that point."