Wisconsin's Solidarity Sing Along ticketed by Capitol Police

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August 14, 2013

By Kristen Mathews

Wisconsin

Since March 11, 2011, a group of citizens have gathered in Wisconsin's capitol building every weekday at noon to sing together in protest of the current state leadership. The "Solidarity Sing Along," attracting between tens and hundreds of participants, has never missed a weekday protesting performance since Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker passed Act 10, the controversial law eliminating collective bargaining rights for unions.[1]

The capitol police and singers have not coexisted in the space peacefully, and throughout the last two years have had many periods of ticketing and arrests. Most of these citations were later thrown out in court. The capitol police have attempted to uphold a 1979 rule stating that groups gathering in the capitol must have a permit, but the protestors believe that rule is unconstitutional and they have the right to free speech and assembly.[2] Recently, the police have again started arresting protestors and handing out $200.50 tickets. In the ruling on July 8th regarding the permit requirement, U.S. District Judge William Conley stated the police could no longer require a permit for groups smaller than twenty. With that, the police felt they could now enforce the rule against the large Sing Along group to encourage more manageable crowds, but that has only resulted in larger groups who still feel the requirement is unconstitutional.[3]

“It’s a public forum where people have the right to gather and petition their government,” said Bill Dunn, 63, of Middleton, who was one of those arrested. [2] The singers who refused to leave the rotunda were handcuffed and then led to the police station, located in the basement of the Capitol, to be frisked and ticketed.[2] 40 of the arrested protestors have entered not-guilty pleas to the courts, and citations for unlawful assembly have been given to over 223 protesters since the decision by Judge Conley.[1]

The protesting has not been limited to liberals of the state, a group of conservative singers obtained a permit to legally gather and sing at noon on Monday, July 29, 2013. The few hundred singers involved in the Solidarity Sing Along moved outside to the Capitol lawn near state street to let "David Blaska and the We Got a Permit Singers" have the opportunity to showcase their rights to free speech.[3]

The Solidarity Sing Along, which usually ends with a chorus of "Solidarity Forever," has recently added the chanting of Article 1, Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution: "The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged."[4]

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