At least three of the handful of protesters allowed to watch Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget address from the State Capitol's Assembly Gallery Tuesday evening were ejected from the Gallery, escorted out by State Patrols.
"I was one of the 20 people invited in from the general public," said David Wasserman, a Madison Metropolitan School District teacher at Sennett Middle School.
He didn't get to stay for long.
"We looked at the list of things we weren't supposed to do –- we knew we weren't supposed to clap, we knew we weren't supposed to have our cell phones on," Wasserman said of the rules posted in the Assembly Chamber, noting that all the Republicans in the Assembly Chamber were clapping and cheering for Walker's address.
"Then, the woman next to me, who I don't even know, stood up when everyone was clapping, and she booed," he said. She realized she had broken the rules, Wasserman said, and voluntarily left, escorted by an officer.
Shortly thereafter, a sheriff came back to Wasserman's seat and said, "You two [David and his friend Thi] are going to have to be escorted out."
Wasserman explained: "And we said, 'We didn't do anything! What did we do?!' This other woman was screaming. We weren't clapping. We weren't whistling and cheering. We weren't doing anything we weren't supposed to be doing."
According to Wasserman, two State Patrol officers escorted them out around 4:40 p.m., before the end of Walker's address, passing them from sheriff to sheriff on the way out. They kept asking, "Why do you keep escorting us out? What did we do? Why?" Wasserman noted the initial two sheriffs who escorted Wasserman and Thi from the Gallery never responded as to why they were ejected from the address.
The Assembly Chamber is 73 feet by 68 feet by 41 feet high and has seating for 240 people in the Assembly Gallery, to watch legislation in action from above. Of the 240 seats, he noted, there were only about 20 people that were from the general public, and they were a "very, very small minority of non-Republican viewers."
"And they didn't like that. They didn't like that there were 20 people very obviously not clapping with the rest of the Republicans. It didn't look good for them."
The Center for Media and Democracy also checked in with Marcia Colsmith, a Madison resident, service worker and union member Tuesday evening.
"They [State Patrol troopers] watched us like hawks during the whole address and if you even coughed or sneezed they would give you a dirty look … they put us in folding chairs, too, so they could watch us really closely."
At the end of Walker's address, Colsmith added, she and the other protesters declined to applaud, simply standing up and turning around, "like we were turning our backs on the Governor."
She then said the State Patrol officers immediately told the protesters they had to leave and escorted them out.
The act of letting such a limited number of protesters in to watch the governor's budget address "seemed like a farce," Colsmith said, like officials were letting a small quota of protesters in to hear the governor speak for publicity's sake.
"But we didn't even get regular chairs," she exclaimed, "And at the end, they took our shoulders and marched us out."
Wasserman similarly expressed his frustration with being escorted from the address early.
"We had made it the whole time there, I actually stood in the beginning when there was a prayer to open the address, but I stood backwards because I'm Jewish," Wasserman explained, and he did not wish to pray a Christian prayer. "And they [the officers] actually told me to turn around because that was disrespectful. And so I sat down. But I didn't do anything wrong that was written in their rules."