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Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

February 22nd, 2011 1:20 PM

Is Scott Walker Cutting Off Internet Access To Thwart Protesters?

According to pro-labor protesters in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be taking a page from former Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak and cutting off internet access to key protest organizers within the state Capitol building.

If you are in the Capitol attempting to access the internet from a free wifi connection labeled “guest,” you cannot access the site defendwisconsin.org. The site has been used to provide updates on what is happening, where you can volunteer, and where supplies and goods are needed to support protesters. Administrators of the website were notified on Monday that the page is being blocked. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate says that the site was put on a blacklist typically used to filter out pornography sites so that protestors inside the Capitol could not access this key site.

Former Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Charles Hoornstra said that, if Walker is blocking the website, it could be a violation of state and federal laws concerning free speech laws. The accusation by the Wisconsin Democratic Party accompanies an accusation by the Teaching Assistants Association that Wisconsin state authorities cut off wifi access to a room they had taken over as a headquarters inside of the Capitol.

Likewise, the Teacher Assistants Associations (TAA), which has been coordinating the various cleaning and food operations of the protesters occupying it, has been allowed to occupy room 300NE in the Capitol as their headquarters or situation room. They have used this room to help coordinate protests within the Capitol. Up until today, they had been able to arrange a special high speed Wifi so they could work their coordinating.

Yesterday, however, the Wifi connection mysteriously ended and it’s not clear exactly why. Whatever the reason, the TAA Wifi connection ending has made it more difficult for TAA organizers to coordinate actions and movements throughout the Capitol.

Walker’s decision to take steps to block certain types of internet access to protestors comes as a new poll shows that public support for Walker is plummeting. A poll of Wisconsin voters, conducted by Democratic pollster GQR Research for the AFL-CIO between Feb. 16 and 20, shows support for organized labor in Wisconsin as high while support for Governor Walker is plummeting.

The poll showed that only 39% of respondents had a favorable view of Walker, while 49% had an unfavorable view of him. This is a tremendous drop of a support for a Governor who was elected with just 52% of support just a few months ago. While support for Governor Walker is dramatically dropping, the poll showed that 62% of Wisconsin voters agree with the protestors at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

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