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Appeals court affirms guilty verdict of UW protester (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin appeals court upheld Wednesday a frequent University of Wisconsin System protester’s conviction of obstructing an officer while trying to enter a UW-Oshkosh building.

Former UW-Stevens Point student Jeff Decker has long protested the use of student fees at the system’s schools, crossing the line into harassment and leading UW officials to bar him from entering campuses, according to court rulings.

In May 2014, Decker attempted to attend a grand opening event at the UW-Oshkosh Alumni Welcome and Conference Center even though he wasn’t permitted on campus, according to the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruling. Campus Police Chief Joseph LeMire and officer Christopher Tarmann intervened, but Decker avoided them and started struggling when they grabbed his arm. Decker fell to the floor and locked his arms and legs onto a table as the officers pulled him to the doorway; they ultimately placed him in handcuffs.

The Winnebago County Circuit Court found Decker guilty of obstructing an officer last year, a decision that the appeals court affirmed because there was sufficient evidence that Decker obstructed the officers, that the officers were acting in an official capacity with lawful authority and that Decker knew his conduct would obstruct them.

Decker, the son of former state Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, believes UW officials illegally block students from accessing millions of dollars of their own fees and has spent years trying to bring attention to the issue. He has marched around campuses in a mechanical dragon costume, printed trading cards likening UW leaders to “Star Wars” villains and interrupted UW meetings.

“Sadly, diverse viewpoints are clearly unwelcome across the University of Wisconsin,” Decker said Wednesday. “There is no lawful authority to exclude dissenting viewpoints from a public university.”

In 2010, Decker grew upset over the fees in a meeting with the UW-Stevens Point chancellor, swearing at him and stabbing a stack of papers with a pen, according to a 2014 state Supreme Court opinion ruling that his actions amounted to harassment. A disciplinary committee suspended him and barred him from any UW campus, but he returned at least four times.

A Dane County judge refused to reissue the restraining order in January, a ruling Decker said corrected mistakes made by the state Supreme Court. Decker also pointed to other cases he’s won in the past three years in which the UW has tried to exclude him from public property.

“That’s what distinguishes me from other people is I don’t shrivel up and die,” Decker said.

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