Protest Singers’ Noses Swell in Wake of Capitol Chief’s Comments

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  Thisis an open-source correction/continuation of Clay Barbour’s article published by WCMC since the WSJ couldn’t be bothered to fact check for him.  Think of  it as a little bit country,  a little bit rock-n-roll.]

Protest singers’ numbers grow noses swell in wake of Capitol chief’s comments

Citizens demonstrating the chief’s advice. Photo by Lisa Wells.

The ranks noses of participants of the noonday singalong Sing Along at the state Capitol swelled Tuesday on Labor Day after remarks by the new Capitol police chief that a crackdown on such protests was coming.

Chief David Erwin previously said Monday he planned to begin strictly enforcing the Capitol’s rules in an effort to restore normalcy and safety to a building that has become home to regular demonstrations.  The chief also told legislative staff that if they felt intimidated by someone at the Capitol, they should pretend to film the person with their phone and knuckle punch them in the nose with their free hand.  He claims his words were taken out of context.

The chief did not say exactly when the crackdown would begin, but the move seemed aimed at protesters citizens such as the “Solidarity Singers Sing Along,” a group of people who gather four days a week every weekday (including holidays) in the rotunda at the Capitol, either in the rotunda or outside near Lady Forward on Carroll Street, to sing songs of peace, love, unions, labor, opposition to Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP, and almost anything else people suggest.

In December, the Department of Administration instituted a rule requiring groups of four or more to get permits to protest exercise their rights to peaceably assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government at the Capitol, even though the Wisconsin Constitution at Article I, Section 4, grants citizens these rights and states that these rights shall NEVER BE ABRIDGED.

On Tuesday Labor Day there were more than 50 70 singers, similar to the number that turned out after the weeks of protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the Capitol last year, and more than double the size of more recent singalongs that turn out any given Friday by the tree on Carroll Street. Some of the singers wore bandages and band-aids on their noses, and held signs in opposition to the chief’s suggestion that violence is a means to an end.

Former Chief Charles Tubbs took a lenient respectful approach to the singers citizens , allowing them to who already check for conflicts on the DOA website daily with police before singing. Erwin said at some point he will require they get a permit or face prosecution by the Department of Justice for civil violations in the Capitol while actual crimes will continue to be handled by the Dane County District Attorney.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Quote. Photo by Rebecca Kemble.

But on Tuesday every weekday, the singers citizens were defiant exercise their rights. The group quoted often quotes the state Constitution before beginning.

Jeremy Ryan, a Capitol protester citizen well-known for traveling around the building his love of free speech and who travels on a Segway because of health issues, was in attendance Tuesday on Labor Day. He previously said most of their actions have been protected by the First Amendment and he thinks the chief’s words could come back to hurt him. Jeremy Ryan was recently cited for disorderly conduct for expressing his views to the Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association calling WCCA “yellow journalism” and the Wisconsin State Journal the “Wisconsin State Urinal.” This case will be the first to be prosecuted by the DOJ.
“If they try to break up the singalong Sing Along, you will see the numbers of protesters just keep getting bigger,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, sent Erwin a letter, chastising him for not telling legislative leaders and the chief justice of the Supreme Court about his plans for a stepped-up enforcement of the rules. He said that as a member of a “co-equal” branch of government, he expected any such changes would include “consultation prior to implementation.”

Troublemakers. Photo by Lisa Wells.

Erwin responded to Miller’s letter, though a spokeswoman for Miller claimed the response was “interesting but failed to address the concerns outlined in the original letter.” Erwin has not, however, contacted any of the participants of the Sing Along over the noon hour since being named Chief of Police.  He “nose” where to find them.

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