There’s a reason this blog is called Legal Insurrection.  An insurrection by definition is illegal, but that is exactly what some police union members in Wisconsin have threatened in support of fellow public sector unions.

The video below show a policeman (presumably off-duty but wearing what looks like a police-issue sweater with insignia) who addressed the crowd of protesters inside the Wisconsin Capitol building on February 24, and threatened disobedience to state government. 

Here is the transcription by a supporter of the police protest of the key passage:

“[…] This is not a budget issue! This is a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE! […] Mr. Walker! […] We know pretty well now who you work for! [applause] Let me tell you who WE work for! [points to self and police emblem] We work for all of these people! [applause] We are not here, Mr. Walker, to do your bidding! We are here to do their bidding! […] Mr. Walker, this not your House! This is all of our House! [camera pans 360°]”

It gets worse. 

Although there is no video of it, according to a protester from inside the Capitol, the police union members more generally threatened to disobey any future orders to clear protesters from the building, currently expected to take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 27:

From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, RAN ally Ryan Harvey reports:
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”

Ryan reported on his Facebook page earlier today [2-25-2011]:

“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.

Here are the protester’s tweets (here and here) at the time of the police union announcement:

To the extent the policeman in the video above, while off duty, wished to participate in the political process, that was fine. But the policeman went much further, and suggested to the protesters that he would disobey the Governor.  The announcement by the police union members that they would refuse an order from the legislature to evict the protesters from the building also went far beyond mere political speech.

It’s unclear to me what the lines of command are in Wisconsin, and whether the departments in which these policemen work ultimately are under the control of the Governor and/or legislature.  Clearly, the Governor does control the National Guard.  Regardless, the police union members involved have actively advocated and offered to participate in insurrection against the legal authority in Wisconsin. 

More than anything, this shows the dangers of public sector unions.  Those who work for the state occupy a different position than those who work in the private sector because they carry the weight of state authority.  When those state workers are in law enforcement, they carry special obligations not to use their positions for political purposes.

When an off-duty policeman wearing police insignia takes a megaphone and announces that he and his fellow police union members will disobey orders, that policeman — at a minimum — has dishonored his pledge to uphold the law.

It appears that by the end of today we will know whether the police union members’ talk of insurrection was bluster (which I suspect is the case), or if they really will risk their careers by disobeying lawful orders from legitimate and duly elected state authority.

Update: The Daily Mail identifies the insignia worn by the policeman in the video as a Madison Police Department badge:

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