Walker admin. drops permit requirement for Solidarity Sing Along, allows “notices”

Instead Sing Along participants can give DOA a 2-days-in-advance “notice” of their activities.

While I am deeply thankful to the ACLU and to Michael Kissick for pursuing this, I admit I have a wait ‘n’ see attitude about the settlement news.

This settlement places a permit above a “notice”.

Here’s the provision on notices vs. permits from the settlement reached between DOA and Kissick/ACLU:
“The DOA may give a validly issued permit—even one applied for after a notice is given—precedence over a noticed event to prevent conflicting uses, if necessary.”

“If necessary”.

Conservatives for weeks have been reserving the rotunda under permits to do things like have one guy hide behind the liberty bell replica to read his copy of Mark Levin’s “Liberty Ammendents” (at least one did so at the urging of radio personality Vicki McKenna). It’s been an abuse of the goodwill expressed by the Sing Along’s practice of leaving the rotunda if another group is reserving it by permit.

I wonder what nasty documents we would see unearthed if Kissick’s lawsuit bounced back into court instead of ending in a settlement? I guess we’ve learned that the administration’s hide-the-hard-drives trick can NOT be used twice. Good to know.

Here’s the DOA press release which includes the precious ““During the past few years, we held listening sessions about the permitting process, met with legislators, and reached out to those who failed to follow the rules required to use the space.”

After DOA’s cuffs and ties were reached out to singers’ wrists, deep grooves often remained in their flesh – leaving an enduring, negative impression.

The Wisconsin ACLU press release:

ACLU of Wisconsin Announces Settlement in Capitol Free Speech Case

State agrees to informal “notice system” for groups gathering inside Capitol

CONTACT: Sarah Karon, ACLU of Wisconsin, (608) 469-5540, skaron@aclu-wi.org

MADISON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin today announced a settlement in its federal lawsuit against the state Department of Administration concerning free speech at the Capitol.

As part of the settlement, the state must create a notice system, which allows groups to gather inside the Capitol without a permit.

“This is a victory because giving notice is significantly different from forcing people to ask the government for permission to exercise free speech,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Giving notice is very informal. The state can’t deny use of the Capitol to anyone giving notice, unless someone else has reserved the entire space by obtaining a permit for the same time.”

Under the former permitting rules, which the state adopted in November 2011, groups as small as four were forced to obtain prior permission from the government before engaging in expression “for the purpose of actively promoting any cause” inside the Capitol, a public building.

The new rules also prohibited people from gathering in the Capitol for any performance, ceremony, presentation, meeting or rally without a permit.

The ACLU of Wisconsin lawsuit, filed in February in U.S. District Court, charged that the state violated the First Amendment by requiring permits for demonstrations held inside the Capitol and by punishing protesters who gather there without a permit.

The ACLU of Wisconsin and Madison attorney A. Steven Porter brought the suit on behalf of Michael Kissick, an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. In the past Kissick sometimes participated in demonstrations inside the Capitol, including the Solidarity Sing Along.

Kissick ceased exercising his First Amendment rights inside the Capitol in September 2012, when police began arresting and citing people who exercised free speech there without a permit. In July, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley ordered the state to stop enforcing the permit rules for small groups. Last month, Magistrate Judge Peter Oppeneer held a mediation session between the parties, resulting in the settlement.

“I’m happy because this agreement allows the Solidarity Sing Along to continue as it always has,” Kissick said. “The group has effectively been giving the state notice all along, and has always deferred to events with permits.”

As part of the settlement, a person may give the DOA notice of a gathering of 12 or more people by phone, email, in person, or via a form supplied by the state. Notice must be given at least two business days and not more than 10 business days before an event.

Individuals and groups may also give notice for consecutive events, and there is no limit on how many notices an individual or group may provide.

“There isn’t any question that the old permitting system was unconstitutional,” said legal director Dupuis. “This settlement halts the state’s unwarranted punishment of individuals who gather inside the Capitol to exercise their free speech rights.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.

Here’s the actual settlement that Wisconsin’s Department of Administration has reached with ACLU and Michael Kissick.


ACLU offers a clarification about ‘spontaneous events’ on twitter:

spontaneous events

LOL MacIver!


3 thoughts on “Walker admin. drops permit requirement for Solidarity Sing Along, allows “notices”

  1. The Kissick settlement applies to him and him alone. Once the Western District Court closes his case based on the settlement agreement, the 20 person rule no longer exists. The 12 person rule has no bearing unless/until DOA writes a new rule regarding this. Just because it appears in a settlement agreement does not mean it automatically becomes law. DOJ may offer similar settlement agreements to others cited. I will not accept such a settlement. It will be fun to watch DOJ try to find me guilty of violating an emergency rule which is no longer in effect, based on a 20 person rule that will also no longer be in effect.

  2. The ACLU didn’t answer my question in that tweet. But the question is answered in the text of the agreement.

    Point #9 – “Events inside the Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda without a notice or permit of less than 12 people will not be declared unlawful solely based on their lack of notice or permit. Events without a notice or permit of 12 or more people may be declared unlawful solely based on their lack of notice or permit and citations or arrests may be made in conjunction with that declaration.”

    So a gathering such as the Singalong – currently limited to 20 and NOT subject to arrest (despite the arrests the Walker Admin have been making) – are now limited to 12, AND are subject to arrest.

    Permits by another name, with MORE severe consequences.


    The only way this isn’t a really bad outcome is if the Walker Admin uses it as an opportunity to stop arresting the Singers and goes back to ignoring them. I hope they do so, but….

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