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Wisconsin Capitol Police arrested and cited around 20 people today after declaring their singing of protest songs in the rotunda an "unlawful event."

Many of those arrested were senior citizens (photo above by Leslie Amsterdam)
(photo by Gary Storck)
Capitol Police placed this sign in the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol shortly after noon today
Capitol Police placed this sign in the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol shortly after noon today (photo by Jim Murray)
At least one citizen responded with sarcasm.
One citizen responded with sarcasm by propping his ready-made sign next to the police sign.(photo by Jim Murray)
(photo by Gary Storck)


I hope to have home-grown video soon. Local media were in the Capitol and are covering it (some better than others.)

Local CBS affiliate.

Good photos attached to this story:

Joan Kemble, 80, said she and her 85-year-old husband were taken to the cafeteria in the basement and "put through all the rigamarole." When she refused to provide her identification, she was told she would be taken to jail and finger printed. After about 15 minutes she was back in the rotunda talking with reporters and Democratic legislators.

"My daughter used to say it was Fascist and I thought she has being extreme," said Kemble, who moved here last fall from Connecticut. "That's before I got here and saw the things they are doing."

Here is a photo of Joan Kemble being arrested (photo by Leslie Amsterdam)

Those arrested were cited for violating Wisconsin Administrative code 2.14(2)(v), which states:

(v) Without approval of the department, conducts a picket, rally, parade or demonstration in those buildings and facilities managed or leased by the department or on properties surrounding those buildings. In order to preserve the order which is necessary for the enjoyment of freedom by occupants of the buildings and facilities, and in order to prevent activities which physically obstruct access to department lands and buildings or prevent the state from carrying on its instructional, research, public service, or administrative functions, any picketing, rally, parade, demonstration, other assembly, or congregation of spectators to the activity may be declared unlawful if its participants:
1. Intentionally gather, or intentionally remain assembled outside any building or facility managed or leased by the department in any numbers, in any proximity to each other, or in any fashion as to physically hinder entrance to, exit from, or normal use of the building.
2. Intentionally congregate or assemble within any building or facility managed or leased by the department in any fashion as to obstruct or seriously impair state-sponsored or state-authorized activities.
3. Enter the private office of any state employee, unless invited by the authorized occupant of that office, and then not in excess of the number of visitors designated or invited by the person.
4. Obstruct or seriously impair passage through corridors, stairways, doorways, building entrances, fire exits, and reception areas leading to offices in buildings and facilities managed or leased by the department.
5. Enter or occupy any building or facility managed or leased by the department, without authorization from the person in immediate charge of any room in the building, or by a person designated to approve requests for the use of rooms for meetings.
6. Assemble immediately outside rooms in any building or facility managed or leased by the department at times when they are normally in use for state business.
7. Bring signs supported by standards or sticks into a building or facility managed or leased by the department.
8. Intentionally create a volume of noise that unreasonably interferes with department-sponsored or authorized activities.
9. Intentionally employ force or violence, or intentionally threaten the immediate use of force or violence, against state employees or officials when in buildings or facilities managed or leased by the department.
There was no indication from anyone arrested or from the Capitol Police which of the nine potential infractions was being charged. The description on the tickets simply said “NO PERMIT”.

In response to a lawsuit brought by a Madison resident and the Wisconsin chapter of the ACLU against Governor Scott Walker’s administration, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on July 8th of this year prohibiting the administration from requiring permits for groups of 20 or fewer. The Walker administration has interpreted that order as requiring larger groups to get a permit, though it does no such thing. The number 20 could change after the full trial, which is not scheduled to begin until January of next year.

A daily "Solidarity Sing Along" has been held in the rotunda or just outside the Capitol every weekday since March, 2011. Participants sing songs with pro-Labor, social justice, and environmental themes, some of which include lyrics critical of Scott Walker and the Republican-led Wisconsin legislature.

The ACLU of Wisconsin posted this on their facebook page:

As you all have probably heard, several protestors were arrested in the Capitol today. We're disappointed that the Capitol Police have chosen to enforce the permit requirement for its own sake. We're also disappointed that Secretary Mike Huebsch has misrepresented Judge Conley's ruling. Right before the arrests began, Huebsch was quoted as saying, "We enforce the order today." Judge Conley never "ordered" the Capitol Police to arrest or ticket peaceful protesters. These arrests were ordered by Huebsch and Chief Erwin. It's also our understanding that those arrested today were not disruptive or disorderly. The only reason they were arrested is because there were more than 20 of them and they didn't have a permit.
Here is State Senator Bob Jauch's reaction to today's arrests (hat tip to Downstate Democrat):

Here is a statement from State Representative Chris Taylor:

“For several years, a small group of people have gathered daily at noon in the Capitol rotunda to peacefully sing songs. Each is expressing their right to free speech and their right to petition their government. As referenced by Judge William Conley in his recent decision striking down the current Capitol permit scheme advanced by the Walker Administration, the Capitol rotunda is a public forum and ‘functions, both literally and symbolically as a city center and is fully utilized as a public space to which all have claim’ (Kissick v. Huebsch at 1). As such, any limitation on a person’s free speech rights in a public forum has to be substantially related to a state interest.

“Today, dozens of Capitol police officers stormed the Capitol rotunda, handcuffing and arresting peaceful singers. These singers are neither dangerous nor disruptive. According to testimony given in the Kissick case by the Capitol police themselves, the singers’ presence has never necessitated any additional police resources. Simply put, these singers were arrested for exercising their First Amendment free speech rights.

“Chief Erwin and Governor Scott Walker’s militant handling of the daily peaceful singing has escalated this situation unnecessarily. The Capitol rotunda would have been much safer today had Governor Walker given Chief Erwin a little red rubber ball to play with in the corner instead of control of the entire police force. Chief Erwin is determined to arrest peaceful civilians, some of whom were there simply to take pictures. Chief Erwin’s actions are endangering his officers and the public. This is the kind of heavy handed police government you would expect to see in a Third World country, not here in Wisconsin. It must stop.”

UPDATE: It turns out there was an actual crime captured on video in the Capitol today. A man was (eventually) arrested for spitting on one of the peaceful singers. He was followed by a local videographer who contacted the City of Madison police when the man fled the building. The spitter was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct:

UPDATE 2: Michael Kissick, the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Walker administration that resulted in the recent temporary injunction, issued the following statement this evening:

People speaking for the DOA are misrepresenting the ruling to you. The judge did not say the rules are constitutional or that they been applying them constitutionally. On p. 45 of the ruling the judge says,

"Two aspects of the Access Policy's current permitting scheme are unconstitutional: (1) the preference for cause-promoting speech in the Capitol is an unjustified, contentbased restriction; and (2) the permitting requirement for 'events' involving as few as one person is an unjustified time, place and manner restriction. The invalidity of these provisions raises the question of whether the rest of the Access Policy can be salvaged by severing or giving a limiting construction to the invalid parts." The last line of page 45 states "This is not a final Judgement of facial constitutionality."

So this is not a final ruling. All the judge did was say that there are some things that were unconstitutional. On p. 46 of the ruling he states it's not a final ruling on severance of the unconstitutional parts mentioned above. That means they cannot simply rewrite those parts of the rules now. They may have to rewrite all the rules. It has not been decided. Constitutionality has not been decided.

If you care to donate, a fund has been established to help pay court costs (not attorney fees) for Wisconsin citizens arrested for exercising their first amendment rights: http://solidaritysingalong.org/

Originally posted to Giles Goat Boy on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 12:56 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, The First and The Fourth, and Protest Music.

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