Several Wisconsin legislators have been warned by Capitol Police recently that they should not be observing the arrests and other activities currently happening in the Capitol rotunda daily over the noon hour, as Solidarity Sing Along participants continue to sing out their disapproval of Gov. Scott Walker and his policies each weekday from 12 to 1 p.m.
Many state elected officials have been sympathetic to the song circle and have joined in on occasion to voice support. Others have issued press releases and written letters to DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch urging him to respect citizen’s right to petition their government.
The latest Capitol crackdown on dissent began late last month with daily declarations of an “unlawful event,” which requires “participants” and spectators to disperse or risk arrest. Observers, including tourists and other visitors to the Capitol, are warned daily about the danger of remaining in their statehouse while the arrests are happening. Tuesday, Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) was warned to stop observing the scene as she watched arrests from a balcony outside her office.
Wednesday, Reps. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison) stood their ground when asked to move away from Capitol Police arresting a citizen sitting peacefully on the floor.
When asked to comment, Sargent said, “I’m deeply concerned about the DOA procedures that are being implemented by the Capitol Police. The escalation is felt in the air.” On her Facebook page, Berceau commented, “I decided to go to the Solidarity Sing-a-long to see what behavior generated arrests. None. Behavior issues, that is. Here’s how it’s working; the Capitol Police have people on the floor above the rotunda with ear buds. Someone is communicating something to them. Then suddenly you’ll see 3 or more cops move in and randomly, it seems, select someone and immediately handcuff them. Not hand them a citation…handcuff them. A guy standing next to me, not singing, was just suddenly arrested. I asked the officer … guy I know and like … why [the man] was being arrested. His answer, “because he chose to be.” I asked again, and got the same answer. I asked if he’d like to arrest me and his answer was, ‘No, I do not want to arrest you.’ Note … he didn’t say he WOULDN’T.”
To donate to the First Amendment Protection Fund to help citizens defray legal costs associated with First Amendment activities at the Capitol, visit: http://solidaritysingalong.org/