MADISON, Wis. — As rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI6) watched on the television from his office.
“Around noon we began to hear tear gas canisters going off, we looked on the tv and largely followed it from our TV's in the office,” Grothman said.
Grothman wasn't on the floor, which was the same case for many representatives for social distancing measures. Grothman said he thought Wednesday's actions were horrific.
“Just an embarrassing thing for the United States, I'm sure it was on TV all across the world, more of the type of thing you would see in a banana republic than you would here,” Grothman said.
Grothman is no stranger to crowds in a capitol. He was serving in the Wisconsin legislature during Act 10 protests.
“They were different,” Grothman said. “I think the protesters in Madison, I got along very well with them, there were many of them, they stayed there for a month, but they weren't aggressive or violent.”
Grothman said what happened in D.C. Wednesday was different than what happened 10 years ago in Madison.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who was serving in the Wisconsin Assembly during Act 10, also said the two were different.
“In reality, the Act 10 protests and the mob violence and murder that we saw occur in Washington D.C. could not be more different,” Parisi said.
Charles Tubbs, who was police chief of the Capitol Police Department during Act 10, said the two incidents were different as well. He said there was very minimal damage at the capitol during Act 10, and the only major injury a police offer sustained was in an incident where someone with a mental health crisis climbed to a high location and the officer was hurt trying to help them.
Tubbs said he knew there would be unrest ahead of time and he immediately started contacting lawmakers, community groups, media, and other law enforcement agencies to prepare.
“I knew in the best interest and the greater good for everyone was nonviolent, voluntary compliance is the way to operate in these situations,” Tubbs said. “The police cannot arrest their way out situations when it becomes unmanageable, it gets worse.”
Tubbs said he was not criticizing police in D.C. And he wanted to offer his condolences to people who lost their lives and for the sadness in D.C.
Pamela Oliver, a professor emerita of sociology at UW-Madison, said the similarities between Wednesday and Act 10 are limited.
“They have some, superficial similarities and some profound differences,” Oliver said.
She said similarities are it was at the Capitol, with a large crowd, and trying to keep something from happening. However, she said the similarities stop there.
“Some of the people there probably were more like protestors,” Oliver said. “But some of those people were trying to take down the government or more precisely prevent the transition of power after an election.”
Oliver said she calls Wednesday an attempted coup because authoritarian scholars do. She said act 10 had much more simple goals.
“It was narrow,” Oliver said. “The goal was a huge protest there were hundreds of thousands of people, but it was a narrow, very specific thing that it was about, it wasn't about the governor can't be the governor, it was don't pass this legislation.”
She said Act 10 started off as people refusing to leave without giving comment. Oliver also said that while protesters were loud and disruptive, they were not violent.
“They were self-policing, maintaining order, maintaining friendly relationships with police, behaving in a really different way,” Oliver said.
Tubbs said people were not violent towards police during Act 10 too, and he said it was in large part to the support he had from then-Governor Scott Walker and other lawmakers like Parisi.
“We did not have a highly elected official in a position of President Trump who was in a sense what appeared to be egging the group on to take measures that were unlawful,” Tubbs said. “We didn't have that.”
Parisi said one of the largest differences he saw between Act 10 and the riot in D.C. Wednesday was the attitudes toward police. He recalled a story during Act 10 when Reverend Jessie Jackson lead thousands of chants calling police their friends. He contrasted that with people pushing police back, and ultimately killing one.
“That's the difference between what happened 10 years ago in Madison and the tragedy that occurred days ago in Washington D.C.,” Parisi said.
Grothman agreed that Act 10 wasn't violent. He said people threatened violence and threatened him, but he thought those people weren't common.
“I have always felt those people who wanted to hit me or provoke a physical attack in the capitol came from out of state because I don't think that's the way we do things in Wisconsin,” Grothman said.
Similarly, Grothman said the majority of the people in D.C. Wednesday were peaceful, but many that stormed the Capitol were not.
“This time I think there were, the bad people, were motivated by a genuine desire to beat people up or break into the Capitol,” Grothman said.
Grothman added he wants the people involved found and prosecuted and wants to learn more about their backgrounds and psychological makeup. He said things are back to normal now.
“I think in the long run it was a limited type of thing that happened here, it's not going to be repeated,” Grothmann said.
Tubbs said what he saw Wednesday saddened him and it took him back to the sadness he felt being in D.C. On 9/11. He said he hopes the country can come together like it did in the wake of 9/11.
“We need to start talking about reorganizing and helping police,” Tubbs said. “This is a real trying time for the United States of America and our people need to come together.”