- Rebecca Townsend
- An eclectic group of Hoosier activists continues to meet with the goal of raising social consciousness.
UPDATE: At 11:21 a.m. on Jan. 4, NUVO received a notice from Tory Flynn of the Indiana House Republicans with the following statement from House Speaker Brian Bosma,R-Indianapolis: "After conferring with the Governor's office this morning regarding access to the Statehouse, I fully support the Governor in removing the cap on public access to the Statehouse.
"There is a fine balance between public access and public safety, and we need to assure that both of these issues are met. I am pleased that we have decided to open up the Statehouse and err on the side of public access. Without the public, we don't have a democracy."
The 24-7 Occupy Indy protest presence at the Indiana Statehouse has ended, though protestors still return at various times to advocate awareness of economic injustice and a host of other issues.
Likewise, activists advocating Occupy Wall Street-style actions and agendas continue to meet locally to advance greater awareness of societal injustice on many fronts. Updates on meetings are posted to the Occupy Indianapolis and Indy OWS pages on Facebook.
Meanwhile, officials with the Indiana Department of Administration, the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Office of Homeland Security on Dec. 30 announced a new slate of rules governing access to the statehouse.
Indiana DOA Commissioner Robert Wynkoop said in a phone call with NUVO on Tuesday that the rules represent a formalized version of safety plans and protocols that have already been in place for the past several years.
The east Statehouse doors function as the public entrance. The total capacity of the building is capped at 3,000 people, an estimated 1,700 of which will include state employees and credentialed lobbyists and media.
Several groups — including Senate Democrats, the Indiana State Teachers Association blogger and Sheila Kennedy, a blogger and professor of law and policy at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs — have decried the new rules as an attempt to muzzle the peoples' voice in the peoples' house.
"It's bad enough to trample on the rights of working people and their right to associate and collectively bargain, but it is completely inexcusable that they would trample on every Hoosier's First Amendment rights to free speech and to redress grievances with the government," said Assistant Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, in a news release following the new rule's release on Dec. 30.
"It's being done because of the 'Right to Work for Less' bill, but the impact is going to be much larger than that."
Lalane's rhetoric offers a hint at the extended right-to-work drama that is poised to define the 2012 legislative session much as it did in 2011.
Wynkoop stressed that the rules did not have anything to do with political issues, but rather safe entrance and exit to the Statehouse, which was completed in 1888, before modern fire codes were enacted, and has only four relatively small exits to the outside.
Last year's protests of 900 to more than 1,500 people were, Wynkoop said, the largest he has seen in six years at the Statehouse.
Negotiating around such large crowds made necessary a formalization of the building's safety policy, officials said.
"During the last legislative session, several scheduled events were interrupted or canceled, and we want everyone who visits or schedules an event in the building to have a pleasant and successful experience," said State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell in a statement accompanying the rule's release.
Following is the complete wording of the Capitol rule change:Indiana Statehouse and Government Center Security Policies Effective January 1, 2012
- Hours of Operation: The Indiana Statehouse and Government Center are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM (except for scheduled State holidays). During the legislative session, the Statehouse may remain open after 5:00 PM on those days when one or both of the legislative bodies are in session.
- Occupancy Limits: The State Fire Marshal is granted authority to manage the occupancy load of the buildings.
- Statehouse Floor Restrictions: In order to comply with State fire code occupancy limits, assembly will occur in official meeting rooms, offices, or other pre-designated areas as established by Indiana Department of Administration. No congregation in hallways will be permitted which might interfere with pedestrian flow, entry and exit from offices or meeting rooms, or emergency ingress/egress.
Stairways will be kept clear for pedestrian traffic and emergency egress. Free public Wi-Fi access is available in the Statehouse and Indiana Government Center for visitors to view broadcasts of legislative activities or gather information from State agency websites.
- Statehouse and Government Center Entry Points:
The east Statehouse entry door (Capitol Avenue side) has been designated as the primary entry control point for any public access.
The lower level west Statehouse entry door (Senate Avenue side) has been designated as the ADA accessible public entry control point and for members of the non-credentialed media or other pre-scheduled visitors or pre-scheduled tours of the Statehouse.
Indiana State Police and Indiana Department of Administration personnel will provide security screening for persons and packages entering the building. Exterior steps at all Statehouse doors should remain clear for emergency egress. Access through other entry doors will be limited to credentialed or emergency personnel only. Anyone may exit at any of these doors. Public access to Government Center North is from Robert Orr Plaza and to Government Center South from Washington Street.
Robert Orr Plaza Access: The Indiana State Police may implement a restricted vehicular traffic pattern on Robert Orr Plaza and adjacent Senate Avenue. During the 2012 legislative session, as has been done on occasion in previous years, Senate Avenue will be designated as one-way north. The southern portion of Senate Avenue will be designated for media-only parking however, entrance onto Senate Avenue will occur from Washington Street. Traffic entering Orr Plaza from West Street will U-Turn just past the divider and will also exit at West Street.
- Exterior Assembly and Gathering Areas:
The south Statehouse lawn has been designated as the exterior assembly and gathering area. The south steps of the Statehouse and adjacent sidewalks are to be kept clear for emergency egress. An additional area for assemblies and gatherings may be designated by the Indiana Department of Administration if the south lawn is not large enough to accommodate an assembly.
Gathering and assembly areas elsewhere on the Statehouse grounds may be authorized by the Indiana Department of Administration and Indiana State Police upon approval of the required application and issuance of a permit as long as state fire code restrictions are observed.
- Code of Conduct:
A Code of Conduct for the Indiana Statehouse and Government Center has been established by policy of the Commissioner for the Indiana Department of Administration. Persons entering the Government Center and/or Statehouse will be held to these standards. To ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable visit to the government campus, we ask that you adhere to these guidelines.
Visitors entering the buildings on the Indiana Government Campus, including the Statehouse, are cautioned that certain behaviors are prohibited, including but not limited to the following:
-Recklessly or negligently damaging, destroying or defacing State of Indiana materials, equipment or property, or the personal property of staff or public officials
-Interfering with entry into or exit from any State office space
-Creating a volume of noise that disrupts the work of the executive, judicial or legislative branches of government, or any committee thereof
-Uninvited or unauthorized person entering into staff work areas not open to the public
-Making offensive gestures, cursing or using obscene, abusive, profane or threatening language
-Displaying or distributing obscene materials
-Engaging in acts of lewd behavior contrary to State law
-Exhibiting signs of being under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substances
-Engaging in physical altercations, including assaults and fighting
-Entering or remaining in a State facility after or before posted hours of operation
-Smoking or using any type of tobacco products within State facilities
-Loitering or pandering
-Gambling in any form on State property
Visitors entering the buildings on the Indiana Government Campus, including the Statehouse, are cautioned that certain items, including but not limited to the following, may pose a security risk and are prohibited:
-Firearms, per 25 IAC 8-3-1 through 25 IAC 8-3-4
-Razors, knives and box cutters
-Electronic stun guns, martial arts weapons or devices or paraphernalia
-Any pointed object (knitting needles, letter openers, etc.) other than legitimate pens and pencils
-Intoxicating liquor or alcohol and other controlled substances
-Mace, pepper spray and other similar chemical agents
-Non-aerosol spray (Prescriptions for medical needs are permitted)
-Any bag or container larger than 14" wide x 13" high x 4" deep, unless inspected and approved by the Indiana Department of Administration or Indiana State Police
-Cans and glass bottles
-Electronic and non-electronic noise-amplification or noise-making devices, except as authorized by an Indiana Department of Administration permit
-Sticks or clubs
-Signage larger than two feet by two feet (sticks to hold up signs are not permitted)
-Signage may not be attached to the Statehouse property without permission of the Indiana Department of Administration or Indiana State Police.