The Riot Act

We scoured the state for bizarre yet completely legitimate laws.

Story by Ann Christenson & Sean Cornell

No Sprinkle Zone
City of Sheboygan
☞ Hear ye, hear ye, within the city limits of Sheboygan, “No persons shall, with purpose or intent, sprinkle their property in any manner to the distress or annoyance of others.”

Lower Your Objects
City of Racine
☞ Unless you are a “bona fide participant” (e.g. a clown or float), Racine’s municipal code puts the kibosh on throwing or shooting “any object, missile, spray or other solid, fluid or semi-fluid projectile by hand or any other means” along the route of an official parade.

Leave Those Squirrels Alone
City of La Crosse
☞ Under a La Crosse ordinance, it’s strictly verboten “for a person to injure, to destroy or attempt to injure or destroy any kind of wild birds or squirrels within the city limits,” without special approval from city officials.

Look, Ma…
City of Sun Prairie
☞ The law in this Madison suburb is clear: “No bicycle shall be allowed to proceed … with the feet of the rider removed from the bicycle pedals” or with “both hands removed from the handlebars.” Carrying a second person is also forbidden “unless a seat is provided.”

The Lougie Law
City of Wauwatosa
☞ Think twice, if you’re clearing the contents of your throat “upon any sidewalk abutting” a public street or alley in Wauwatosa. The city code blocks the act of spitting, expectorating, or depositing “sputum, spittle, saliva, phlegm, mucous, tobacco juice, or wads of tobacco upon the floor or stairways” of any public hall or conveyance.

Stone Cold
City of Wausau
☞ Kids in this central Wisconsin town must resist the urge to pitch a snowball “by hand or by any other means” at anyone in a public place. Wausau’s legislators have also prohibited the throwing or shooting of arrows, stones and other missiles.

Get a Room
City of Oak Creek
☞ To “sit, lie, or otherwise recline upon or against any parked motor vehicle without the expressed consent of the owner” runs counter to an ordinance in this Milwaukee suburb. And the above restriction pertains to any vehicle “parked upon a public street, alley, parking lot, driveway or private premises.”

No Nukes
City of Sun Prairie
☞ Hans Blix isn’t needed here thanks to a visionary city law: “No nuclear weapons, delivery systems for such weapons, or components expressly intended to contribute to the operation, guidance or delivery of a nuclear weapon shall be produced within the city.”

Flush, Please
State of Wisconsin
☞ A fine and honorable statute prevents the state from promulgating “any rules which either directly or indirectly prohibit the use of manual flushing devices for urinals.” In fact, officials are encouraged to “take steps to encourage” the flushing of urinals.

Anything But Margarine
State of Wisconsin
☞ There’s a long history here, and much of the resulting legislation remains on the books. Remember, “The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer,” and this restriction extends to state facilities, unless “the physician in charge of the patient or inmate” has prescribed the use of margarine.

Tainted Love
State of Wisconsin
☞ Thanks to a more puritanical age, adultery remains a Class I felony in Wisconsin. This chilling subsection extends to both “a married person” who cheats and the person complicit in the cheating. Not that you have anything to worry about.


‘The Riot Act’ appears in the January, 2015, issue of Milwaukee MagazineClick here to subscribe.