By Rebecca Kemble
Participants in the Solidarity Sing Along at the Wisconsin State Capitol are known for their creative song lyrics as well as their witty signs and banners. Today, on Halloween, they added masks and costumes to render their messages in defense of free speech and against the authoritarian rule of Scott Walker and Capitol Police Chief David Erwin more lively and three dimensional.
More than 30 people have received over 77 tickets over the past two months for peacefully protesting in the rotunda and participating in the Sing Along. The Capitol Police have changed tactics from handcuffing and arresting people in the building, to hand delivering tickets to people’s homes and places of employment, to their currently preferred tactic of sending the tickets through certified mail.
Despite the increase in police harassment, people continue to assemble every weekday at noon to hold this public space open as the public square and free speech zone it was designed to be.
As much as Scott Walker and Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch would like to change access to and use of the Capitol to mimic a corporate office building, citizens continue to insist that its historical and political significance be respected.
In the application for the Capitol to be considered a national historic landmark, the authors assert:
“In addition to the Capitol representing a seminal work of an important American architect, the building also stands as a superlative expression of the Progressive ideology that spawned the impetus for the construction of the building. The Wisconsin State Capitol celebrates the ideal of democratic government at its best – benevolent, responsive and supportive to the needs of its citizenry in such areas as education and labor. An important intention of the Capitol Commission was that the building be accessible to all and function as a collective expression of progressively minded government. Thus, the building was conceived with a didactic function, intended to educate the populace about the traditions associated with the state.”
This significance appears lost on the current regime, whose policies have been judged unconstitutional and whose practices have been found by federal government agencies to be unauthorized if not downright illegal. So much for Wisconsin’s progressive tradition.
“The Capitol, as specified in the original building program, is in the form of a St. Andrew’s Cross, providing a double axial configuration that welcomes state citizens to walk beneath the four classical porticoes and enter the halls of government. This expression of accessibility to all, combined with high-minded sculpture, mosaics and paintings that celebrate the inherent good of fair government and its significance to the commonwealth, give architectural form to the Progressive ideals of Robert M. La Follette, Sr. The building remains an expression of values that were intrinsic to both Wisconsin and United States history, values that continue to be held by subsequent generations of Wisconsin citizens.”
Evidently, these values aren’t shared by Walker, Huebsch or Chief Erwin, who deploys officers to monitor, take notes on and issue citations to peaceful singers. Generations of La Follettes must be rolling in their graves.