Fifth day of mass arrests at Wisconsin’s capitol building where singers got 23 citations

Photo by Jenna Pope. See more photos at her facebook profile. Donate to support her international photojournalism work HERE.

According to M.J.S., the Capitol police issued 23 citations to singers in Wisconsin’s house of government August 1st, 2013.

The first song of the day was “We Shall Overcome”, a classic I first heard broadcast on an NBC affiliate out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin on our Zenith tube TV.

The singalong version has a modern Wisconsin verse for viewing on my widescreen high def. monitor:

walker wont be governor

Then the assembled sang “This Land is My Land”.

A woman stood in the center with her mouth gagged by tape while the rest of us stuck to the periphery, less courageous and close to the marble columned edge.


A few moments into singing, cops held a black box speaker, an LRAD, over the edge of the 1st floor railing. A recorded voice said, “This is Chief Erwin….” Then live human voices singing “This Land is Your Land” overpowered the LRAD.

My favorite part in our updated version of “This land…” is the one that vows opposition to Scott Walker, that promises we will “never” be pushed out, and says that this “house” is “for you and me”.

this house is your house

That word “never” also appears in Article 1 Section 4 of Wisconsin’s constitution: “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.”

Those words have been recited en masse and featured in signs held by unintimidated singalong participants since March of 2011.

Arrests then began.

What I see from the first floor above when mass arrests take place on the rotunda below are a mass of multiple officers in black uniforms encircling each arrestee no matter how sleight the target’s build. Officers come at least 3 at a time but I’ve seen as many as 8 surrounding 1 person. If you were to slit your eyes and blur them a little, and if you were looking down on this from the 1st or 2nd floor in the capitol, it would look like one of those close-up films of a biological process – the blackness coming into the center of a cell, encircling, then taking away the arrested.

[That reminds me: in June of 2012, Scott Walker announced to a Washington D.C. audience that public worker benefits were “a virus.”]

The 1st floor is usually where much of the press stays. Citizen bloggers, photographers and sometimes cameraman brave the ground floor weaving between singers and police.

Today I saw a new man in white navy dress uniform standing perfectly still and rod straight at the edge on the ground floor. A woman in a red T stood next to him.


I asked them if I might get their names and add them to a photo to send to facebook. She said, “Chief Petty Officer John Allen and Melinda Allen.”
“He spent 27 years defending freedom. Now we’re participating in it.” He nodded. She continued, “What really set us off is when they stepped on the flag”.

“They” refers to police who, last week, arrested a veteran and in the process, allowed his American flag to fall to the floor to be stepped upon.
[ this footage from last week ]

Meanwhile Craig Spaulding was arrested.

And sometime right after that Greg Gordon was arrested. Greg was singing while they handcuffed him [they were using zip ties before as standard – now handcuffs appear]. Then there was a little break in the song – the quiet between verses – and Greg said, “Smile!” with a grin. Then the swirl of ladies in raging granny hats, and sign holders and singers swayed towards him in a dance step. Stereotypical midwestern Wisconsin “nice” turned to a fusion of power around me. My ideas of what a fighter looks like and does were newly shredded.

Then Steve Burns was arrested.

We learned that Will Williams had fallen on the marble stairs that lead to the basement where arrestees are always processed. The news came 1st as a pass of comment and then as an announcement between songs. Will is a 70 year old man, a Vietnam Vet, and revered. He is a black man. There was a buzz of angry murmurs. A man announced that police should have taken their time – “as long as it takes” – so that he could have had sure footing – stayed safe.

(Later we will learn by facebook that Will Williams went to the VA hospital and he has no broken bones and will be back to sing when the doctor gives an OK.)

At one point I discovered myself very close to what seemed to be an arrest at the edge of the rotunda. A police officer was about to arrest a scared-looking tourist who said she is from Tuscon. She got out of it – walked away a free woman.

#Justatourist from Arizona. Welcome to Wisconsin!
Photo credit: Wendi of flickrGranted permission for this post.

Sometime after a woman really lit into Tony Galli of WKOW TV 27 with a scold. I fumbled with my camera and only caught the tail end, and then, only a visual of feet.

Woman: “…people need to know. And if you’re complicit, you’re complicit.”
She walks away.
Galli: “It’s good that you’re here being an activist getting the word out.”
Woman walks back and follows him a few feet: “It’s the news people – it’s the news people that should get the word out. Do your job buddy. F*** you.”

And she went back to the center, singing.

I went up to the 1st floor and completed the noon hour looking down at everybody singing “Solidarity Forever” and walking in a circle. I saw Whitney get arrested at the end of the sing after a trio of cops ambled over and pointed to her.


I then chatted a little with a photographer who was also taking in the view. I asked him that thing that everybody is wondering:
Why does Walker think these massive arrests are a good thing? What does he get out of it?

He had no idea and then said “Did you see the tourists from Japan up there?” and pointed to the 2nd floor, “They were raising their fists”, and he added in an awed voice, “They were *really* into it.”

I replied, “Maybe those tourists will get the word out.”

One person got two no-permit citations and two misdemeanors (resisting/obstructing and trespassing) and was sent to jail where the fellow inmates laughed to learn he was sent to the clinker for singing.

Footnote II:
Texas had a solidarity singalong the same night. Michigan has one coming up.

Footnote III:
Maybe you’d like to see the singalong songbook. A note on that I wouldn’t think I’d have to add but- due to a recent article *ahem*: singalong folks sing replacement verses for the recall songs or else dispense with those songs altogether. Everybody is aware that this is the year 2013. 🙂


5 thoughts on “Fifth day of mass arrests at Wisconsin’s capitol building where singers got 23 citations

  1. I am curious. What would the singers do if I got a free permit and walked around in the rotunda with a sandwich sign that read, “Let’s all observe silence for our great country.” Would the singers be polite and let me do this every day and also observe the silence, or would they ignore my chance to make a statement and respect silence?

  2. “Are the Capitol Police from the community or…” There are some better eggs and some bad ones in the bunch. They are in a union. Their boss, Chief Erwin, formerly worked for the private security company that guarded Walker when he was a Milwaukee Co. Executive.

  3. As a member of the Menominee Nation and now a resident of the Great State of Washington where everyone is equal.. I am so proud of those that raise the voices in unison in the face of fascism.
    I am bewildered at how the propaganda machine of the TeaParty and the Koch Bros have shaped the state into a 3 world nation …. How is the world can a state that sent Intellectual Giants into world of politics ( Mc Carthy excluded), for whom our state was proud of the progressive and compassionate manner in which we treated all who lived there now becomes a place I will never come back to….where hatred is now the norm within government… Are the Capitol Police from the community or are they hired from a “private security company”?

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