capitol balloons file photo

Balloons released by protestors float to the top of the dome at the Wisconsin Capitol building.

M.P. KING – State Journal

A woman whose balloon was popped by a state worker last month during a noontime singalong at the state Capitol has sued the worker, claiming he violated her constitutional rights.

Leslie A. Peterson, of Madison, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Ronald J. Blair, an assistant director in the Division of State Facilities, who allegedly used a knife to pop a red heart-shaped balloon that Peterson was holding at the Capitol on July 25.

Blair, 56, has been charged with disorderly conduct while armed for the incident, which allegedly happened during the daily Solidarity Singalong, an ongoing protest of the state law that sharply curtailed collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

The lawsuit alleged that Blair violated Peterson's free speech and due process rights and subjected her to unreasonable search and seizure.

According to the lawsuit, after Blair popped the balloon, Peterson followed him, demanded to see his identification and told him she intended to file a report with Capitol Police.

Blair grabbed her by the wrists and slammed her against a door, the lawsuit states. She saw blood and thought it was her own, but the blood belonged to Blair, who had cut himself while trying to pop the balloon, according to the lawsuit.

As police investigated, they confiscated Peterson's camera and made copies of 11,132 pictures on it before returning it. Cooperation with the police, the lawsuit states, "has been unpleasant and inconvenient," required much of Peterson's time and subjected her to a great deal of publicity.

Colleen Locke, who is representing Blair in his criminal case, said she had not seen the lawsuit.

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