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Lawsuit filed in balloon-popping incident

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Demonstrators march around the State Capitol building as they protest against the proposed budget cuts from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in Madison February 25, 2011. Credit: REUTERS/Darren Hauck
Demonstrators march around the State Capitol building as they protest against the proposed budget cuts from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in Madison February 25, 2011. Credit: REUTERS/Darren Hauck

MADISON (WSAU) A protestor has filed a civil lawsuit against a state employee who’s criminally charged with popping her balloon and pushing her against a door at the State Capitol. Leslie Peterson of Madison is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Ronald Blair, an assistant director in the Division of State Facilities.

The civil suit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, accused Blair of violating her constitutional rights to free speech and due process, and her right against unreasonable seizures. Prosecutors said Blair popped Peterson’s red balloon July 25th while she was taking part in a daily State Capitol sing-a-long by those protesting the state law which limits public union bargaining. Peterson then followed Blair down a stairway, and authorities said he pushed her into a restroom door. According to her lawsuit, Peterson thought she bled during the episode – but it was Blair who cut himself while trying to pop the red balloon, which has become a sign of the union protests. Peterson also said her cooperation with police has been quote, “unpleasant and inconvenient” – and it has taken much of her time and subjected her to a lot of publicity.

Blair’s lawyer said she had not seen the civil suit. Blair is seeking a plea deal in his disorderly conduct case, and a settlement conference is set for September 9th.

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