Wisconsin Capitol building employee attacks balloon then protester. One witness describes the event.

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Update from WSJ: “The protester involved in Monday’s incident told a Capitol police officer that the worker came at her with a knife. She did not appear to be injured, but was holding a blood-smeared paper bag and what looked like popped red heart balloon.

Other protesters who had been attending the daily singalong in the rotunda told the State Journal that the worker said he was sick of removing balloons from the dome and attempted to pop it. They said he apparently stabbed or cut himself in the process.”

I spoke to Jenna who witnessed an attack of a Madison citizen, Leslie, by a man named Ron Blair in the Capitol today. Leslie is a regular noon visitor to the Capitol who sings with a Solidarity Sing Along group and I think she’d call herself a “protester”. Ron Blair is the state’s assistant facilities director [per a recent madison.com article]. I don’t think Ron Blair would call me “friend” but I’ve sat in the Capitol with Ron and had an extended friendly conversation with him. There was nothing in our conversation to indicate that Ron was angry or unsettled. I tried to talk politics with him, which didn’t work out. He emphasized that he maintains a non-political viewpoint in his work at the Capitol. Ron at the time was dealing with clean up of the Capitol building after a protester occupation. He was more interested in talking about the types of marble and granite in the building.

I learned about today’s altercation initially through a friend on twitter: @joevittie.
I then noticed a friend Jenna tweeting that she’d seen what really happened.

I thought at first that Ron had stabbed Leslie in the course of trying to pop the balloon she had. It’s my mistake. I misread this tweet:
“@joevittie Leslie is ok but appeared to be in shock. Blair stabbed balloon and tried to push Leslie into women’s room….”

I called Jenna who described the situation:

Jenna says that she was standing with Leslie when Ron approached “out of nowhere”. Leslie was holding a heart-shaped balloon that according to a @joevittie tweet, she had brought to give to a legislator. Jenna says Ron rushed at the balloon and popped it and then darted down a back stairway. In the course of the action Jenna says he did not say anything she could clearly hear, though he may have been mumbling.

Jenna says they were on the 2nd floor of the Capitol and he ran down to the 1st floor. She and Leslie followed close behind yelling at him and asking him why he popped the balloon. Jenna said he stopped at the 1st floor and turned. At this point they were very close, only “a couple of feet away” from Ron. Jenna says Ron lunged at Leslie grabbing her wrists and throwing her into a bathroom door. The force of the lunge was enough to push Leslie into the bathroom and he also came in the room with her. Jenna says that at this point Leslie started to scream and call “Help!”.

Jenna had Leslie’s camera in her hands and struggled to take a photo of Ron, and did. Jenna said that the settings weren’t ready and by the time she managed to take a photo he was leaving the restroom (The camera is with the Capitol police right now.) Jenna says it was only a moment in the restroom and then Ron left running downstairs and out a side entrance – one of the handicapped entrances. Two friends Lance and Matt heard Leslie yelling and were coming. As they approached, Jenna told them to follow Ron while she got a cop. They followed Ron who ran into the Risser Building on Martin Luther King Drive.

Somewhere in the course of the scuffle Ron slashed his hand. I asked Jenna if she saw a knife or any kind of implement and she said no. Enough blood came off of Ron’s hand to drip onto Leslie and to splatter onto a flight of stairs of the Capitol.

Leslie, Jenna, Matt, and Lance have all submitted written statements to the Capitol Police. I asked Jenna if there was anything Ron had said to her or anybody during their visits that would indicate he was angry and she replied “no” but that he was always “grumpy”.

She speculated that he was upset about balloons that have been released in the Capitol in the past week or so.

Leslie is the owner of a shop on State Street. I’ve come to see her as somebody who is often present and working quietly. For example, on the day that collective bargaining rights were eliminated from public employees in Wisconsin, Leslie brought a huge helium balloon attached to a large greeting card to the day’s rotunda gathering. The card was there to sign ceremoniously, wishing Wisconsin well. I know Leslie as the person who was instrumental in coordinating an information and food station at Walkerville that became a welcoming hub for visitors.

I don’t see Leslie as a loud or aggressive or angry protester – though she is certainly not a shy person. I’d see her as the most mature person in the room who makes sure things operate better than they did before.

For the record: Ron Blair’s identity was confirmed by both Joe and Jenna.

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  6 comments for “Wisconsin Capitol building employee attacks balloon then protester. One witness describes the event.

  1. peachfuzz
    July 26, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Thanks for the story. Sounds to be like he just came unhinged. The attack and shoving was uncalled for, but it is probably way out of character for him or he’d have been booted years ago. Who knows, maybe he does consider it “his” building, and frankly that can be a great thing. Or maybe his salary and benefits just got cut. Or his workload has doubled because of all the mess. Too bad it happened like this.

  2. Rebecca
    July 26, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Thank you for this account. Right after the event, the rumors were rampant. I was very disappointed in those who made this attack about politics without even knowing the facts. There were comments such as “typical of the rethugs” and those who immediately jumped to nefarious plot theories. The whole response was very disturbing to me.
    It indicated people are so intrenched in their political views, the ‘us vs them’ mentality, that they’ve, firstly, forgotten us and them are still US; we are all still Americans, and more than that, we are all still human beings. They forget PEOPLE are PEOPLE; be they democrat or republican, and all people are capable of violence when under stress. But to ascribe this type of violent behavior as typical of only one type of people, or one group….the Germans also ascribed violence to the Jews as typical behavior and look where that ended. It’s a way to dehumanize the other side; to make them seem barbaric or beastly; suggesting they can’t control themselves, and ‘we’ are somehow better.

    Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, it was another sad reminder that people have become so immune to violence that they would describe this behavior as typical. In doing so, they don’t realize that they are giving permission for the violence; that it’s expected, and thus….accepted. Because you don’t expect better from them.

    BOTH sides need to realize we are ALL under a great amount of stress. And everyone responds to that stress in different ways. We need to all remember that regardless of which side we’re on, we’re still in this together. And that the other side are still human. And all of us need to stand up against violence; and say in one loud voice, that violence is NOT the way to solve our differences.

  3. Aunt Bee
    July 26, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Given that he’s worked for DOA for a long time, Ron Blair probably sees the Capitol as “his house” and perhaps resents ordinary people being there having a say in their government and chanting “our house.” He’s only used to legislators and well-paid lobbyists roaming the halls and not we the people.
    Chief Tubbs is under as much if not more pressure than Blair is, and I’ve never seen him looking or acting grumpy.

  4. Fiona Mackenzie
    July 26, 2011 at 12:32 am

    As I see it, we have exactly one chance to rescue our state, an emblem of freedom since at least 1854. It’s a long shot, though. We have just over a year to educate all of Wisconsin, to make sure people who vote their father’s party under this is not their father’s Republican party, and to guarantee that every voter is aware of at least one priority, one set of model laws, that is or will be making his life less than he expected it to be.

    It won’t be easy. Most voters (some say 90%) don’t really consider their votes. It’s kind of a matter of getting one ALEC law intended for Wisconsin that does or will totally anger each voter. And making sure they understand which party is doing it to them.

  5. July 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for the facts. I’ve become a Progressive political activist because of what the “authoritarian right” (I like that term!)has been up to. They can’t be allowed to tear apart my Wisconsin like they’ve been doing. I hope this means a lot more of us Wisconsinites will be paying more attention from now on to what can happen if we leave too many votes up to other people. Recall. Reclaim. Remember!

    • morninmist
      July 26, 2011 at 12:12 am

      Hi Lynnette
      I do think many have awoken and hope they get to the polls.
      Picking up a few deflated balloons would be a breeze (compared to cleaning houses which for the most part was not bad).
      LOVE your chant:Recall. Reclaim. Remember!

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