July 14, 2013 By Tom Robson
[What follows are written comments submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Administration as part of the public input process on the promulgation of emergency administrative rules. – Editors]
SOME DAYS I CRY;
SOME DAYS I SING;
SOME DAYS I CRY WHILE I SING
Since the time I was a small child I’ve freely walked, in awe, into and out of the Wisconsin State Capitol. On two occasions in 2011 I was able to enter the building while it was locked-down. What I saw was unbelievable. Upon entering through the north entrance I was met by security forces. I stopped at the entry, just looking at what was ahead of me. First, a table where all contents of my pockets had to be placed in a plastic basket to be gone through by security. Next, metal detectors to pass through and security personnel with detector wands. Next, a row of officers seven across and three deep.
I stood at the entry and cried. This could not be happening in my capitol, in Madison, in Wisconsin, in America. It was a sight now burned in my mind, until the day I die. What I was seeing cut deep to my heart and soul.
These instances were just the start of the stripping of Wisconsin citizens’ rights in the capitol building. This led to lies about the actions of people voicing their constitutional guarantee of free speech: Lies about damage done to the building by those exercising their rights, lies about a group of people who meet daily in the rotunda, voicing their concerns about troubling political issues through peaceful singing.
Although I don’t get to the capitol often to join in with this group, I’m a member of the Solidarity Singers and get there when possible. We use song to voice our displeasure with the Walker administration’s degradation of Wisconsin’s longstanding history of caring about seniors, the environment, education, public workers, and children. Unsuccessful attempts have been made to silence the voices of those in attendance through a myriad of policies, administrative codes, and now emergency rules regarding use of the building. Nearly all have been rejected by the courts.
During the 2011 protest marches law enforcement officers were brought to the Capitol from counties throughout the State as re-enforcements to the Wisconsin Capitol Police Department. I recall seeing an arm patch from a northern Illinois community. Wisconsin State troopers became a routinely visible force on the Capitol Square.
Next, in an apparent action resulting from fear of groups of peaceful people, Wisconsin State Game Wardens were added. We spoke with many of these officers from differing departments, explaining that we understood what a bad spot they were being placed in, and thanked them for being there, even though their jobs and their unions may be the next to be attacked by this administration.
They sometimes thanked us, sometimes just looked at us with tears in their eyes. There was an understanding and a good working relationship under the leadership of Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs. The administration’s desire to quell that relationship became obvious when Chief Tubbs was replaced by David Erwin, a man who had no plans to deal with the situation through understanding, negotiation and common courtesy. It was apparent that Chief Erwin’s vision of the department was a confrontational presence.
Standing in the rotunda singing with the Solidarity Singers now includes being surrounded by Capitol Police Officers who are obviously instructed to set forth an image of intimidation and thuggery. This change has been an obvious move of childish and unprofessional retaliation against the Solidarity group, as well as a reaction to court rulings that citations issued to Solidarity members, and attempts at orienting specific rule changes toward the group, were deemed unwarranted and unconstitutional.
The proposed changes to ADM 2 are not only an obvious attempt to quell the voices of the Solidarity Singers by placing more control on who visits the capitol building, when they visit, and what they do while in the building. It is also an attack on the rights of all individuals guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution and the State Constitution.
I am ashamed of the image the Walker administration has created of my state of birth, only state of residence ever, and the state I will love until the day I die. Although in recent years Wisconsin has begun to appear similar to a third-world country, it is NOT. Free people have had, and will continue to have access to their government.
Please enter this testimony into the record as against these changes.