Arrested Protest Observer Sues Capitol Police

Alleges Infringement of Rights As Journalist

Dominic Salvia
Dominic Salvia is suing the Capitol Police, alleging they infringed upon his rights as a journalist when they arrested him while observing a protest. Photo: Shawn Johnson / WPR News

One of the people arrested in last year’s crackdown on Capitol protesters has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against police officers, alleging they violated his constitutional rights.

The lawsuit was filed by Dominic Salvia, who was one of many people arrested on the first day of last year’s crackdown. Salvia co-hosts a radio show on a station that bills itself as “Madison’s Progressive Talk.” Salvia says he was in the rotunda only to observe the arrests, knowing that his co-host had already been arrested for singing.

As police made another sweep through the rotunda, they told Salvia that it was an unlawful event and arrested him. The arrest, he said, was completely arbitrary.

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“They targeted me for no reason, simply because, what, I didn’t look like everybody else?” he asked. “I looked like a hippie protester?”

Salvia’s complaint alleges police violated his constitutional rights to cover the event as a member of the press. It also alleges police violated his rights by arresting him without any probable cause.

The ticket police issued against Salvia that day has been dismissed, though Salvia’s attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, notes the charges remain publicly viewable on Wisconsin’s C-CAP website. Olson says potential employers look at those charges.

“Those kinds of things,” Olson said, “are much more significant than petty charges that get dismissed used to be, when in order to find out about them you had to go down to the courthouse.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol Police, had no comment.

While circuit court judges have overturned many of the citations issued in the capitol arrests, attorneys for the state appealed several of the cases late last week.