President Obama was in my City this afternoon, for a speech on education at Wright Middle School.
Since the location had been announced too late for the normal permit process, the Madison Peace Action Coalition contacted the Police Department, and were told they’d be allowed to conduct a rally at a reasonable location a block away.
Come 10:45, the rules changed, and they were booted to a spot a few blocks farther, all but out of line of sight. According to this Wisconsin State Journal account, pedestrians without signs were still allowed in th area from which the protest had been evicted. This makes clear it was a speech motivated ban, not strictly speaking a legitimate security matter.
In The Nation, Madisonian John Nichols suggests that Obama should have marked the anniversary of his election with a big noontime rally at the State Capitol, as well as the school speech, but at the Capitol, they wouldn’t have been able to protect him from seeing the “Out of Afghanistan” signs. Can’t have that, Presidents who run “dumb wars” have to live in a bubble. see UPDATE, partial retraction below
(The State Capitol Police these days have more respect for the 1st Amendment than their City of Madison counterparts. I won a suit v Tommy Thompson in 1987, establishing that, under the State Constitution’s Free Speech clause, anyone has a right to display any placard on the Capitol grounds at any time.)