With a crowd numbering in the hundreds, there were no permits – and no arrests – as the Solidarity Singers converged on the Capitol Rotunda Monday. “People are coming out because they are supporting the Solidarity Singers, but also they want to challenge this ridiculous new edict by Governor Walker,” says Matt Rothschild, editor of the Madison-based Progressive magazine. “They may just be waiting until there are fewer people here, and then do a crackdown in the days or weeks ahead. I think they recognize that to go in and arrest hundreds of people may not be the easiest thing to do, or the wisest thing to do.” In the rotunda, Article 1, Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution was being cited as the only “permit” needed.
The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.
When – or if – Capitol police arrest un-permitted protesters, John Schaeffer may be satisfied. Schaeffer is a confrontational supporter of Governor Scott Walker, who attends the Solidarity sing-alongs. “They talk about how peaceful they are, but I was being pushed around out here,” says Schaeffer. “They don’t like dissent, and they don’t get much of it here in Madison, and I think they need to be reined in a little bit.”
The Solidarity Singers have met to perform in the Capitol rotunda or on the building’s State Street steps every weekday since March 11th. Organizer Chris Reeder has indicated no intention to obtain a permit under the policy put in place by the Walker administration. Among other things, groups of four or more individuals must apply for a permit 72 hours in advance of their activity or display. Monday was the first full day the new rules were in place. A spokesperson with the state Department of Administration has indicated that they have been working with the Solidarity Singers, and that Capitol Police may exercise discretion with regard to making arrest. On Monday, officers merely observed the hundreds of people who shared the dome with the Capitol Christmas tree as they sang seasonal carols re-written to a recall Walker theme. There were no arrests.