The Whitnall Park Rotary, which serves Muskego, Greenfield and Greendale, has met at Klemmer's Banquet Hall every Tuesday for a luncheon meeting, with guest speakers providing information to members and guests.
However, this week's scheduled speaker - Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin's 1st District - drew almost more attention than the charitable group had bargained for.
Board member Scott Schenke said initial inquiries on the event came in from national media, with the mistaken impression that Ryan was charging to speak. However, despite the club responding that the costs were to cover lunch and hall fees, the message did not reach publication.
"We are a charitable organization that raises money to help combat polio around the world, among other things," Schenke said. "We aren't here to raise money to pay for people's lunch."
The spotlight the event garnered drew protestors and Ryan supporters, who each took a portion of the median along Oklahoma Avenue just across from Klemmers as Ryan took the podium Tuesday. He attempted to make light of the situation, saying "apparently you Rotarians don't like free lunches either....welcome to a 'new normal' in Wisconsin."
After lunch, as Ryan began to speak, various protestors who had purchased lunch stood up to challenge Ryan, each holding a sign that asked "Where are the Jobs?"
Ryan's speech was on the debt crisis and spending reduction, and he entertained questions in the last 20 minutes. However, most of the protestors had either opted to leave or had been taken out, and there were no further incidents inside the hall.
Jane Rule, who had been the last at her table of people who took a bus to the event, came from Whitewater and thought Ryan did not address their main concerns of "what he would do to bring jobs to the area."
Outside, the protests and counter-protests were spirited but peaceful, with police from West Allis, , Hales Corners and Franklin, as well as Milwaukee County Sheriff's deputies.
"We've tried to get a chance to talk to Paul," said one man who had been at the luncheon but withheld his name. "We've asked for many opportunities to meet with him at a public forum and his office has refused."
"All these conservatives that are our representatives are supporting corporate interests," said Steven Sweet of Bay View. "It’s the same mantra over and over again, but how else can I put it. They’re cutting programs and not asking anyone else to share the sacrifice."
Supporters, many from outside the immediate area, also came out.
"I really support Paul Ryan and I support what he stands for. I believe that you can’t take from Peter to pay Paul and this country has been doing it for how many years," said Ginny Holton from Brown Deer. "We have to stop the spending that’s going on. We need a strong, moral government that has some integrity, one that follows the constitution. … we just need a different direction, and I do think Paul Ryan is man of integrity."
"We're here just to support Paul," said Gary from Burlington. "We had heard they were bussing people in from Racine, and we wanted to take up a call to action."
After the luncheon, organizers said they were glad the police were there, as they were nervous not knowing what to expect.
James Thorsen, a member of Rotary and past president, said, "This was just our regular meeting. We've had other politicians come to speak in the past who were on the other side and did not have this kind of reaction."
In all, three arrests were made, two for trespassing, one for trespassing and resisting arrest. All were given municipal citations and released.