Today in Wisconsin, Scott Walker held a press conference to discuss the new slogan to be used by the quasi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. I heard about this press conference about 30 minutes before it started, so I went right over there to see if I could get into it to get some photos and report on what happened. Although I am a freelance photojournalist, I also have a press pass through a radio station that one of my friends works at because she uses stories I report on for her show, so I figured I wouldn’t have a problem getting inside.
I walked in, went to the table outside of the room where people were checking in for the press conference, and showed my press pass to the lady who was standing there. She wrote down my name and the radio station I was with, and allowed me into the room. Some Wisconsin citizens without press passes were also there hoping to capture a glimpse of our governor who typically hides in the shadows and rarely shows his face in public. Since Walker is not interested in having to see his constituents, the press conference was then moved up to the 6th floor of the building in an attempt to get rid of any non-press.
Those who were helping run the press conference were doing their best to make sure only members of the press were getting on the elevators to go up to the 6th floor. Although a few people who were not credentialed press were able to get onto one of the elevators right away, I was one of the last people in line for the elevator, and I had to show my press pass in order to even be allowed on. Again, the person checking my press pass allowed me to go through.
Once we made it up to the 6th floor, we had to wait outside of the room where the press conference was now being held. I was in the back of the group waiting to get in, and once they opened up the doors, we all started slowly moving inside. Once I made it to the doors, I saw my friend Arthur being shoved around by cops, so I paused to get photos of this. He doesn’t have a press pass, but has been an awesome citizen videographer and has done a great job of covering stories that the mainstream media has ignored. Below is a photo of officer Steingraeber with his hand on Arthur, even though Arthur was complying with police orders to back up.
After taking pictures of the cops shoving Arthur, I ended up being the last person with a press pass to try to enter the press conference (because, of course, the “real” press doesn’t care to cover a story about a citizen being shoved around by cops.) When I tried to walk through the door, four Capitol police officers stood in my way and denied me access. I told them that I was a member of the press, showed them my press pass, and said that I had already been cleared as press two different times today. When they still didn’t let me through, I asked them why I was being denied access to the press conference, and officer Steingraeber simply said that the answer is “no,” and refused to give me a legitimate reason. You can view a video if it here.
Later, one of my friends asked again why I was denied access, and Steingraeber then said that we would need to bring it up with the Department of Administration, which makes me believe the order to deny me access came from them. My friend, Leslie Peterson, was also targeted during the press conference. The cops know she is a member of the press, but she did not have her press pass on her. She did get into the press conference, but was then singled out and removed from the room.
Once the press conference was over, I approached the lady who had first let me into the press conference, and questioned why she hadn’t told them I was actually allowed in although she had been standing right there the whole time. She said, “You misrepresented yourself.” The only reason for her to think that is because the cops had told her that I was not actually a member of the press, which is a lie. I explained to her that I am an activist and an independent photojournalist, and that the cops know me as a “protestor.” I then went on to tell her that I typically don’t wear my press pass, but that when I decided to use it today, I realized that I was now acting as press and not a “protestor.” At that point, she softened up a bit, and even seemed to feel bad about accusing me of misrepresenting myself.
It didn’t surprise me one bit that the Capitol Police decided to not allow me into the press conference because I have a history with them. I have been very active during the protests in Wisconsin, and the cops all know me by name. But today I was acting as press, and instead of allowing me to cover the event like I have the right to do, they decided to let their personal feelings about me get in the way of upholding the US Constitution. Had they allowed me access to the press conference, I would have gotten some pictures, posted a few updates, and maybe the radio station would have picked up the story. Instead, they choose to target me and deny me access, which gave me an even more interesting story to report on.