Capitol Police Chief Erwin’s strategy appears to be the targeting of citizens he has identified as “leaders.” Five of the seven tickets issued so far in October have been to just two people: Brandon Barwick and Daithi Wolfe. Barwick and Wolfe are familiar as the regular conductors of the Solidarity Sing Along, a daily event held 12-1 pm, Monday to Friday in the Capitol Rotunda or outside by the State St. corner since March 11, 2011.
Wolfe was visited by two Capitol Police officers at his Madison home on Wednesday, October 10th. The officers issued Wolfe a $200.50 citation for violating section 2.14(2)(v) “obstruct access passage etc. (NO PERMIT)” of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. The citation was dated for Monday, October 8th. Wolfe had not received a warning from the police while in the Capitol, and has previously conducted the Sing Along without incident on numerous occasions. This is Wolfe’s first citation, and he has had no prior contact with the Capitol Police.
Barwick received a delivery notice (above) for certified mail from the Department of Administration on Saturday, October 13th. He is unable to pick up the three letters until Monday morning, but they are likely additional citations for having conducted the Solidarity Sing Along. Barwick was targeted by the Capitol Police in September, having received three citations for violating 2.14(2)(v), and one for 2.14(2)(k) “disorderly conduct.” The latter and one of the “no permit” citations were issued for a spontaneous event that took place inside the Capitol after a Friday sing along outside had ended. Barwick has not been dissuaded by these citations and has continued to conduct the Sing Along.
Because of Erwin’s unwillingness to discuss his actions outside of selected right wing media appearances, his motives are unclear. Further, it is uncharacteristic of the Walker administration’s top-down style that Erwin himself is in charge of the crackdown. Mike Huebsch (Erwin’s boss) or Gov. Walker (Erwin’s boss’ boss) are more likely responsible. The crackdown has long been sought by GOP legislators such as Paul Farrow and Daniel Craig, and appears to be conducted in coordination with GOP legislative staff, all of which suggest a political rather than a law enforcement motive.
However, Erwin evidently is operating on the theory that if he can take out its “leadership” he can stop the Solidarity Sing Along or force it to apply for a permit. If so, he is likely to be disappointed. According to all regular participants at the event, the Solidarity Sing Along has no structure or leadership, and there is no one who can act on behalf of the group. “The crackdown already has doubled average daily attendance at the sing along, and the latest citations are likely to increase attendance even more,” one participant noted.
Participants also noted that the new permitting process contains provisions that easily could be used by Capitol Police or Scott Walker’s Department of Administration to suppress dissent, by making permit holders liable for any damage to state property deemed by the DOA to have been caused by the permitted event. “Considering Huebsch and Walker’s history, bad faith, and extravagant exaggeration in damage estimates, only a fool would apply for a permit for any event that might tempt Walker to retaliate,” said one SSA regular.