By Naomi Houser
I think that the most ridiculous articles circulating the web and drawing the attention of Wisconsinites right now are the articles referring to knife wielding Department of Administration worker Ron Blair and heart-shaped balloon carrying citizen Leslie Amsterdam. It's a thrilling tale with knives, balloons, and mysterious blood on the stairs... or the most ridiculous thing you've read today in Wisconsin.
According to various articles and sources close to Leslie, she was enjoying a visit to the capitol while carrying a heart-shaped balloon when Ron Blair (in an attempt to pop her balloon) assaulted her and slashed her balloon with a knife he just happened to have lying around someplace. The mysterious blood on the stairs? Ron Blair insists that he injured himself on the stairs while others say he cut himself while wrestling with Leslie and her very dangerous balloon.
Why was the balloon dangerous? Not only do balloons tend to amuse small children, send sentiments of love and appreciation to people everywhere, but Ron Blair and the Department of Administration insist that balloons that are allowed to float to the capitol's dome also damage paintings by brushing up against them. I don't claim to be an art expert, but that seems a bit far-fetched. Annoying? Maybe. An eyesore? Probably. Damaging to paintings? Ummm...
According to eye witness, Jenna, "I was standing with Leslie when Ron approached out of nowhere. Ron rushed at the balloon and popped it and then darted down a back stairway. He did not say anything I could clearly hear, though he may have been mumbling. Leslie and I were on the 2nd floor of the Capitol and he ran down to the 1st floor. We followed close behind yelling at him and asking him why he popped the balloon." Jenna goes one to say, "He stopped at the 1st floor and turned. At this point we were very close, only a couple of feet away from Ron. Ron lunged at Leslie grabbing her wrists and throwing her into a bathroom door. The force of the lunge was enough to push Leslie into the bathroom and he also came in the room with her. At this point Leslie started to scream and call 'Help!'" (See the original, unabridged article here.)
So why is it my opinion that the whole thing is ridiculous when Leslie is more than likely very shaken up about the whole ordeal?
All that the media is focusing on is the balloon and the popping of the balloon. No one wants to talk about the fact that Leslie was not only assaulted by a man who popped her balloon with a knife he just so happened to have on him, but she was then physically assaulted by that same man. The media would like to focus on the silliness of it, when really it is very serious. No matter the extreme polarization of politics right now, we should not fear being assaulted when entering our capitol building. No matter which side of the issue you're on you should be able to feel safe in public facilities, and you should feel safe around public employees.
Do I understand that Ron Blair is probably stressed out due to the volume of people coming in and out of the capitol with what he probably thinks is blatant disregard for the upkeep? Sure. Does that warrant an attack on someone? No. That warrants taking a vacation before you snap and attack someone carrying a balloon... which is just what he'll be doing. According to nbc15.com "The state Department of Administration, which runs the Capitol and oversees the Capitol Police, issued a statement saying the worker was arrested on suspicion of endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon on Thursday. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says he has to review the case before making a charging decision."
A net has been installed just above the fourth floor in the capitol to stop balloons floating to the dome and was fully in place when the capitol opened this morning.
Here's yet another dilemma for me.... the state had to pay to install this net just to stop people from releasing balloons inside the capitol. While I understand the need for reform in our state of bills just passed, it doesn't help to act like petulant children out for a giggle on the Department of Administration. I understand that the people who have been occupying the capitol are there to make a stand. Sing songs like you have been, carry signs like you have been, but try not to be a nuisance in ways that are not core to the cause. I am sure that some of the releasing was out of respect and solidarity with Leslie, but you only damage the cause making everyone else out to be spoiled brats. Just my two cents.
My best to Leslie. I am floating my imaginary heart shaped balloon for you today.