MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – A woman who brought a balloon to a lunchtime protest of Wisconsin’s anti-union law this year says a state security worker stabbed it so fiercely he stabbed himself in the process. Then, she says, he assaulted her, and Capitol police took her camera and kept copies of the 11,132 photos it contained, many of them of the demonstrations.
Leslie Peterson sued Ronald J. Blair for personal injuries in Dane County Court. Blair was working for the Wisconsin Department of Administration when he assaulted inside the state Supreme Court building on July 25, Peterson says.
Peterson was there to join the noontime “Solidarity Singalong,” a protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill, which drastically curtailed rights of public employees unions, and led to copycat legislation around the country.
Peterson said she also wanted “to be photographed with a red Mylar helium-filled heart-shaped balloon.”
“Such balloons had become a symbol of the protests for democracy, equality and the rights of workers and others, which have become commonplace at the Capitol since the beginning of the administration of Governor Scott Walker,” according to the complaint.
As she stood outside the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers on the second floor of the state Capitol building, Peterson says, “Defendants Ronald J. Blair approached Ms. Peterson with a knife in his hand.”
Peterson says Blair “was acting within the scope of his employment” with the state. She says Blair “grabbed Ms. Peterson’s balloon with his left hand and stabbed at it with his knife with an underhand motion, five times, finally puncturing the balloon, but also wounding himself. Defendant Blair’s wound left a quantity of blood in Ms. Peterson’s bag as well as on the floor at her feet.”
After stabbing her balloon, and himself, Peterson says, Blair began descending a staircase. Peterson says she followed, with one of her employees, and “called out to Mr. Blair, ‘Hey, why’d you do that?’
“Mr. Blair turned and responded, ‘I’m tired of fishing balloons off the ceiling every night.'”
Peterson says she followed Blair and asked him for identification, telling him she wanted it so she could file a report with Capitol police.
At the bottom of the staircase, she says, “Blair turned, grabbed her wrists, and moved her sideways off the staircase, slamming her body into a heavy hardwood door. Ms. Peterson then saw blood and became terrified, thinking it was hers and she might be further assaulted.”
She broke free and called for help as Blair “walked away.” Capitol police arrived and detained her “for some time,” then confiscated her camera. She says the police “eventually returned the camera but kept copies of 11,132 photographs, many of the Capitol demonstrations, almost none of which had anything to do with the Blair incident.”
Since Blair assaulted her, she says, she “has been the subject of a great deal of publicity in the media, much of it unfavorable, including suggestions that she was being silly to take this incident seriously.”
She seeks punitive damages for assault, pain and suffering and constitutional violations.
Peterson is represented by Jeff Scott Olson.