Who’s Unintimidated? A Tale of Two Books

I participate as often as I can in the Solidarity Sing Along, which has been singing songs of protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol every weekday from noon to 1 since March 11, 2011 (toward the end of that little uprising we had going on at the time). And many of you are no doubt aware that our ignominious governor, Scott Walker, has presidential aspirations, and like many such hopefuls he has written a book (with the help of a ghostwriter) titled “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

According to the Wisconsin Gazette:

Gov. Scott Walker’s new book isn’t exactly a tell-all. In fact, it glosses over or leaves out many of the most important pieces in the story related to his successful drive to destroy public unions and his subsequent recall battle. …

“I’ve never met anyone who wants to be president more,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison who served in the state Assembly during the union fight. “We knew the book was coming. We know he’s traveling all over the country. It would be nice if he put even a portion of that energy into creating jobs in Wisconsin.”

In fact, Walker is seldom even in Wisconsin, and when he is, he keeps his appearances brief and well guarded, lest he should suffer the indignity of being confronted by his singing detractors. Walker and the state Department of Administration have gone to great lengths to silence the singing and stifle dissent, all to no avail. As we like to sing, “Until that day when justice holds sway, we’re not going away!”

During July and August of this year, more than three hundred arrests were made by the Capitol Police: 350 citations were issued, and 16 criminal charges were filed. Those targeted were not only participants but even just observers and those photographing the sing alongs. Journalists, senior citizens, and teenagers were among the arrested. Handcuffs were used as well as “pain compliance” techniques, although the charges amounted to little more than traffic citations.

Arrest of CJ Terrell. Photo by Erin Proctor

The Progressive describes two of the arrests which were especially violent:

[The Capitol Police] used pain compliance on CJ Terrell to make him leave the rotunda after he was told he had been identified as a participant in an unlawful event. CJ was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest and released from jail a $701 bail later in the afternoon.

At the same time CJ was being arrested, Capitol Police tackled and drove to the ground his brother Damon, who was there to photograph arrests. Damon was charged with felony battery of a police officer and taken to jail.

Rather than discouraging participation, the violent crackdown induced more Wisconsinites to come to the capitol to show their support for the sing along. The day after the Terrell brothers were arrested, more than three hundred filled the capitol rotunda.

Last month, Walker “threw in the towel” in the words of Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive.

His administration settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Wisconsin. As part of the agreement, protesters no longer need to have a permit to protest in the state capitol. All they have to do is notify the administration. Nor do they have to assume any liability, as they were required to do before.

In response to all the intimidation tactics and in anticipation of Walker’s soon-to-be published work of fiction, some of the thoroughly uncowed singing patriots have put together a photographic account of the Solidarity Sing Along, entitled “Unintimidated: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power,” which is due to be published at the same time as the governor’s. Whereas Walker’s book oozes gubernatorial delusions and presidential pipe dreams, from the pages of this book emanate the people’s aspirations: for truth, fairness, and transparency, for responsive government of, by, and for the people.

Photo by Michael Matheson

Several extremely talented inveterate citizen photojournalists have photographed every single one of the Solidarity Sing Alongs, so there were literally thousands of photos to choose from. Ryan Wherley, a frequent SSA participant who has from time to time contributed to this blog, has supplied the text that accompanies the photographic account of the longest-running singing protest in history. Proceeds from sales of the book will go to the First Amendment Protection Fund to help defray court costs for the many who have been arrested standing up for free speech in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Don’t miss this opportunity to get this extraordinary account of the Solidarity Sing Along and to support free speech and freedom of assembly at the same time.

So, you tell me, who’s unintimidated in Wisconsin, and who’s been doing the intimidating?

Capitol Police Observe MLK’s Birthday with an Episode of Racial Profiling

January 15, 2013, was the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should have been celebrating his 84th birthday. (Was he really only 39 when he was assassinated? I was 11 at the time. I thought 39 was ancient then. Now it seems so very young.) January 15 was also the day of Scott Walker’s annual State of the State address, and the day a troubled young man, Kvon Smith, posted on Facebook that he was planning to bring Molotov cocktails to the Capitol.

Having received a heads-up about Smith’s plan, and having determined that it was a credible threat, the intrepid Capitol Police, those daring keepers of attendance for the Solidarity Sing Along, commendably notified the state police and, armed with a photo and their keen powers of observation, kept a sharp lookout for Smith.

Toward the end of the sing along, a horde of schoolchildren joined in singing “Solidarity Forever” in the rotunda (video). The video description says it was taken moments before the Capitol Police identified Smith, who was standing in the rotunda, just outside the frame of the video.

However, before that, another young man, Colin Bowden—who resembles Smith only insofar as he too is young, black, and male—was taken into custody by the Capitol Police. Bowden was handcuffed and detained without being told why.

However, state Department of Administration spokesperson Stephanie Marquis claimed that Bowden was taken into custody because he “had all the characteristics of Mr. Smith and was carrying a bag” (emphasis added).

Judge for yourself. Would you say that the young man on the left has “all the characteristics” of the young man on the right?

In a statement to friends and supporters on his Facebook page, Bowden had this to say about his experience:

I was told I am a spitting image of the person they thought called in a “serious threat.” This is something I was used to in Chicago, not Madison. … Perhaps the man in this picture looks like me. I doubt it, but I guess people who don’t know black people might mix us up. You see, when you get the wrong person because you’re looking at color before the facts, you risk losing actual perpetrators. If they had spent more time on investigating and trying to find the actual person instead of any ol’ black boy, they might’ve caught him sooner.

Indeed, while the Capitol Police were determining that Bowden was not Smith, the rotunda was full of people, many of them schoolchildren and one of them Kvon Smith, with his backpack. The Wisconsin State Journal reports: “Marquis said that Capitol Police and State Patrol officers were posted at all the Capitol entrances, and that Capitol Police officers immediately identified Smith when he entered the Capitol” (emphasis added).

Yet there’s no mention of why, if he was identified as soon as he entered the building, it wasn’t until he was all the way in the rotunda, surrounded by children and solidarity singers, that he was apprehended, or even why the building was still open when a credible bomb threat had been made.

It wasn’t until Smith’s backpack was taken outside to Wisconsin Avenue that part of the Capitol building was closed. The offices facing Wisconsin Avenue were evacuated, and the Wisconsin Avenue entrance to the Capitol was closed.

The following day, the Madison Fire Department confirmed that the liquids in Smith’s backpack were neither explosive nor flammable.

Had Smith’s backpack actually contained Molotov cocktails, had he acted quickly to ignite them in the rotunda, the misidentification of Bowden could easily have resulted in a terrible tragedy.

Nevertheless, the DOA issued a press release gloating that “Capitol Police protected hundreds of people in the state Capitol by apprehending and arresting Kvon Smith.” And the clearly self-satisfied DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch crowed: “A tragedy was avoided and our Capitol remains safe because of the actions of our officers yesterday.”

I wonder how safe Colin Bowden feels “because of the actions of our officers” on Tuesday. Or how overjoyed the parents of the children who thronged the rotunda feel about those same actions. And I’m sure Dr. King would have preferred that the Capitol Police mark the anniversary of his birth in a way that better reflected the values that he espoused.


I would venture that the Capitol Police “protected hundreds of people” Tuesday in the same way that they daily protect the citizens of Wisconsin from the nefarious noon-hour activities of the Solidarity Sing Along, especially the oh-so-hazardous banners.

Update: Colin Bowden has started a petition on Change.org demanding an end to racial profiling in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Please sign the petition and ask others to as well.

# # #
Thanks to Judith Detert-Moriarty for her photo of Colin Bowden. The photo of Kvon Smith was obtained from the public portion of his Facebook profile. Thanks to Arthur Kohl-Riggs for the video of Kvon Smith’s arrest.

Update: Cline Corporation gets the message, quits plan for Wisconsin mine.

Update:  From the facebook wall of Rep. Terese Berceau:   ” Senate rejection of the mining reforms in Assembly Bill 426 sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message. GTac is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine. We thank the many people who have supported our efforts.” –  Letter just distributed on floor from Gogebic Taconite, President Bill Williams, evening of 03/06/12

——-

Though I’m squarely against the mine, I made a decision to just document a pro-mine rally today and not counter-protest. When I walked up to the Capitol building, my friend Bruce was the lone anti-mine sign holder. I was glad for his vigilance.

About 300 members of 5 unions assembled. The crowd was primarily men with a few women also interspersed. I met men from Green Bay, Milwaukee, Wausau, and Crandon. The private labor unions pledging their support are the International Union of Operating Engineers  Local 139, the Iron Workers District Council of the North Central States,   Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, and  Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council. *

I talked with Chris Schoenbeck, President of the Wisconsin Pipefitters Association.  I tried to get more info on the letter of understanding that five private construction unions worked out with mining company, the Cline Corporation. Schoenbeck replied with the same information I got out of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: there’s a  promise that 95% of the people employed to work on the mine would be from Wisconsin and that they would come from the unions.

I spoke with Steve who lives in Wind Lake [near Milwaukee].  of Operating Engineers Local 139. Steve said his union has 6,900 active members and that his men would be the first people to work on the proposed mine site. He said that engineers would usually be doing road construction and any building work on campus.

I wondered if these folks supported public unions in Wisconsin last year but are now breaking with them.

Doing a bit of checking, I learned that Steve’s union has supported Walker from day one, though his union’s business manager was taken to task for it. Terry McGowan, the business manager for Local 139, wrote a letter to union members in December of 2011 to members to explain that Scott Walker was and is backed by his union because “Tom Barrett made his position clear that he was a mass-transit guy. He told me three times that he saw no reason for any additional highways. in Wisconsin if we can steer the public to utilize mass transit….  Scott Walker on the other hand
believes that we need extra lanes on most of our Interstate system. Not only that, he supports High-Occupancy
Tolls, or HOT lanes in congested areas for additional revenue. He is making a solid commitment to make it impossible if not illegal to transfer money out of the transportation fund and will seek to utilize taxes paid on all car parts and most automo-
bile-related sales toward the highway program. He also told me that the day he is sworn in, the public sector is out of the road-building business.” Read more HERE if you like.

I also spoke with a member of LiUNA. (These are the men you’ll see wearing orange in many of my photos). I asked him if it wasn’t a conflict for his union to side with the mine when many unions were siding against the Walker administration and recalling Scott Walker. He replied that “when it comes to politics we encourage people to go to make decisions that are work-oriented. To make the best decision for laborers.”

I asked him what LiUNA members do usually on a site and he replied demolition, clean-up, hauling debris, bricklaying – “all across the board”.

We talked for a while about the economy and its role in union membership. He said when the economy drops their membership does drop. He added that if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead that will yield a lot of labor for his union.

I said nothing about how I feel about the Keystone XL to him but in my mind I flashed to a moment that morning when I had urged Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” to do a story on 5 Lakota Indians who had been arrested for creating a blockade against equipment on its way to be used on the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

After I shared some of the photos from today on facebook, a friend asked if LiUNA wasn’t in the streets with us a year ago.

Indeed they were. From February 25, 2011, “In Wisconsin where it all started, thousands of LIUNA members have joined tens of thousands of protesters occupying the Capitol building in Madison to prevent lawmakers from stripping workers of collective bargaining rights. And today, state police announced they will join the protestors to defend workers’ rights.”

I am disturbed because I assume that LiUNA and the other unions assembled today will not bite the hand that feeds them  – I’m assuming they will not both accept mine jobs and turn on their provider, Scott Walker.

But hold it. WHAT mine jobs? Isn’t the streamlined mine bill Cline Corporation wants too dirty – so dirty that my scientifically pedigreed friends insist the EPA will stop it? Aren’t the tribes vowing to halt it?

In the process of getting from here to there we must deal with a charade – an assumption that Scott Walker and the mine provide jobs. Once again the corporation brings laborers to their knees. In the process the GOP gets a delicious bonus: men from LiUNA come into the Capitol not as allies to public unions and to Dems, but instead as their adversaries.

As I walked into the building I saw a man who was wearing a blue fist AFL-CIO button. I asked what the insignia was on his jacket and he replied “plumbers”. He was one of the rare men wearing any button at all. That blue fist button is usually marching with the anti-Walker crowd.

There was tension enough in the rotunda to make at least one friend leave the space but the only conflict that came of it was a chant from the visitors that overpowered the singers for maybe 3 minutes: “We want jobs”.

The chanting settled down and the Solidarity Sing Along picked up with , “We are a gentle angry people”.

Some of the assembled pro-mine visitors wandered off to lobby legislators and some stayed. At the very end a singer with a booming voice broke into the brief chant of “Jobs AND Environment!” and many of the other singers joined in.

This well of sound and beauty, the rotunda, is where chants of “Recall Walker!” and “General strike!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” were sounded one year ago. It’s not exactly a think tank, but maybe it’s a yell tank. Now it’s generated competing chants – new divisions.

The state senate was scheduled to take up the bill at noon today, then 1:30PM and then I realized it was 5PM and I was in a vehicle on the way home and the bill was being pushed off again. “All the better to be seen by people after work” I thought. And that’s how it worked out.   Ulimately the legislation that came out of the JFC was voted down and the compromise that Jauch and Schultz labored over was not even taken up (though they did speak eloquently to defend it ). The senate voted unanimously to send the Assembly bill to the Org. committee. That’s where the bill might die.

Today a statement came out from Geogobic Taconite that said it would reject any bill that improved on the original one written to the mine’s specifications, nevermind your wishes for democracy.

See more photos at my facebook page.

*A friend has reminded me that a regional union that has signed on may or may not have the approval of all of the locals within it especially when the agreement was arrived at within a tight time frame.

This was initially titled “Solidarity weakens and the Wisconsin mine goes to committee again. ” The Cline company shared their letter on quitting Wisconsin not long after I wrote this post.

Solidarity Sing Along visited by right winger with 2 left feet. A tale by Giles Goat Boy.

There are several news stories tucked into this new post by Giles Goat Boy of Daily Kos.

First off, I learned that Glenn Beck actually still HAS A CAREER – however meager it might be. The last time I thought of Beck, Fox was losing $600,000 a week in revenue because Beck called Obama a “racist” and ColorOfChange organized a very successful boycott of his advertisers. (Ahhhh. Good memories, there.)

Reminds me of what’s happening to another right wing bloviator now…

Then I learned that he sent a terrible dancer to the Solidarity Sing Along to “blend in”. I wonder if the dance looked a little like this:

Giles Goat Boy: “When we last left our heroes – participants in Wisconsin’s daily protest known as the Solidarity Sing-Along – their 300th singing protest had been infiltrated by a timid cameraman and a bad dancer wearing an LA Dodgers cap. The humble and compassionate Wisconsin singers, who welcome all opinions in their circle, waited patiently while the bad dancer made a little speech between songs. They corrected him when he made a math error while talking about Governor Walker’s budget, then gave him a golf clap after he talked about his desire to make America more like Europe.

We didn’t appreciate the little dance he did during one of our songs. He included a series of “tomahawk chops” in the dance. Not cool, but looking at his well-groomed eyebrows we could tell he was an urbanite from one of the coasts so we hesitantly let it go….”

Continue at
Wisconsin Sing-Along Crasher Identified: Glenn Beck’s “documentary filmmaker” Ami Horowitz

Let’s Sway Responsibly

This past year, I have been a frequent participant in the Solidarity Sing Along protests held every weekday in or just outside the Wisconsin Capitol. One of the songs we sing is “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”, sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”, with new lyrics by Lou and Peter Berryman. It’s a great little protest song that almost dares you to swing your arms back and forth while you sing “Ohhhh…bring back, bring back, oh bring back Wisconsin to me, to me…!”

So we do. We sway while we sing that song.

At some point in the nearly 300 Sing Alongs that have been held since March of 2011, it was suggested that we sway carefully to avoid hitting the person next to us while we swing our arms. It was also discovered that it helps if everyone starts swaying in the same direction.

The advice about proper Sing Along etiquette has become an inside joke that is repeated whenever we sing “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”. The leader calls out “You may sway if you wish, but if you sway…”, and the crowd yells back “Sway Responsibly!” We usually have a few visitors who laugh. Many of the regulars still laugh, too. Often the joke is followed by a few people advising the newbies to always start to the left. Wink, wink.

It’s a good reminder in politics as well as in choreography. Perhaps if Scott Walker had known enough to sway responsibly, he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in right now – another budget deficit, record job losses, at least half the voters in the state disgusted with him, and his recall election soon to be scheduled. I won’t even mention the John Doe investigation. Oops. Too late.

As we begin the process of selecting someone to run against Scott Walker from the left, we need to do the same thing the singers do every day in the Capitol. We need to move left, but we need to sway in that direction, not just shove each other out of the way to stake out claims. We need to sway responsibly. That means union leaders have to avoid the temptation to endorse the first person who promises them everything they want. It means center-left Democrats and moderate Republicans who have joined in the fight have to acknowledge that the movement began as a defensive action against the stripping of collective bargaining rights, and that the fight will not be over until those rights have been restored. It means that the leaders of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin must keep all the doors open and all the lights on as they guide the process of selecting a nominee.

We need to continue talking to each other so we know what everyone expects and what everyone is willing to contribute. As we did last year during the big rallies on the square, we need to turn and listen to each other individually, not just cheer someone speaking from a podium at the top of the Capitol steps.

Our fight began with Labor, but the demonstrations grew into a coalition, then a movement because it also became a fight to restore funds for public education and health care. It became a fight to restore environmental regulations, and a fight to take back the local control that Scott Walker and the Republican legislature said they favored, but stole from the citizens as soon as they had the chance.

Finally, it has now become a fight to simply restore decency and integrity to our state government. Every day, new revelations are highlighting the corruption, pay-for-play, and plain old theft of public resources being perpetrated by Governor Walker and his cronies. To truly bring back Wisconsin, we must include on the agenda a vigorous plan to bring back open government where everyone’s voice is heard. Taking unlimited, private money out of our politics has to be a priority.

It’s not either/or. It’s a fight for all those things, no matter how the fight began, and it won’t be over until every battle has been won, to quote a line from another protest song.

A primary election for governor is a great way for us to start working together. It’s clear that this will be an election like no other in Wisconsin’s history. Let’s treat it that way. Let’s be patient but assertive as we do it together, arm in arm, singing in unison as we sway to the left. Let us each promise that we will not go home until every item on the checklist has been marked “completed.” Some will be very difficult to accomplish, so we must take advantage of every opportunity to progress, regardless of where that opportunity resides on the agenda.

We will not succeed unless everyone commits to staying until we’ve sung the final chorus of “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”. Then we’ll sing one more chorus just for fun, and one more after that to teach it to the next generation.

Rights and Recall Carols in the Rotunda

This happened today and it was glorious: 700-1,000 people assembled with minimal police presence and no arrests today in Wisconsin’s Capitol building to sing political carols.

I present Scout’s lovely video which has the lyrics so you can sing along at home:

Just a reminder that the Solidarity Sing Along has been sponsored by the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice for what will very soon be 250 singing events. Go to their site to find the full holiday songbook and donate if you’d like to foster the growth of this unique form of camaraderie and protest.

It is always a pleasure to convene on either the Capitol building rotunda or the area near the Lady Forward statue off of State Street to sing every weekday from 12 Noon to 1PM.

But THE must-see-and-hear-it-to-believe-it Wisconsin holiday party of 2011 will be the 250th sing at the High Noon Saloon on 701 East Washington in Madison, Thursday December 29 at 7PM.

The place will be full of regular and brand new singers as well as the Learning Curve Sing Along band AND local favorites, the VO5 band and Yid Vicious.

More photos are on my facebook page.

Nobody Buys DOA Disinformation at Wisconsin Capitol

About 30-50 people gathered in the Capitol building’s basement this morning to question Chief Tubbs and a Department of Administration rep. on a new policy that will — among other things — force protesters at Wisconsin’s Capitol building to pay for additional law enforcement and treat groups of 4 or more people as “rallies”. DOA’s Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr asserted repeatedly he is not an attorney and could not answer legal questions about policy. Answers from Tubbs and Schoenherr were usually variations on the following:
1- “I’m not going to respond to a hypothetical situation.”
2- “The policy is based on Chapter 2 in the administrative code. Our legal team believes it is defendable.”

Brian S. asked about the “hypothetical” on everybody’s mind:
“”Let’s say that whenever the implementation date is, that there are 150 singers in the rotunda, are you prepared to make 150 arrests if those people do not voluntarily comply?”
Tubbs: I’m not going to respond to a hypothetical
Brian S.: It is not a hypothetical.
Tubbs: We will evaluate that situation. I am not going to give up the ability we have as a law enforcement agency to professionally deal with a situation that could be questionable.” The Solidarity Sing Along group has been singing at noon every weekday at the Capitol since March 11. Song leader Chris Reeder has made it clear the group is not going to get a permit to “exercise our free speech rights”.

One of the “hypotheticals” posed by Katy R. was: “If I want to bring 3 members of my family to see the holiday tree – if we have the same sentiment that we want to express at the same time – is that going to turn this into a rally?”

Schoenherr replied, “It is a practical matter. That’s something we’ll have to work out on an individual basis… If you want to just have your family here and say ‘God bless America’ that would be OK.

I think Schoenherr has no clue how disturbing that comment sounded.

Greg P. used Schoenherr’s comment to frame the perilous state that DOA’s policy puts free speech in:
“.. it would be so easy for these procedures to be selectively enforced. You said before if people want to come to the Christmas tree lighting and say “God bless America” that would be OK. But that’s a problem. What if people want to come to the Christmas tree lighting and say “God damn America”. – – those are equivalent things and if you enforce this on people that say “God damn America” and not “God bless America”, that is a serious problem”.

Assembly Representative Chris Taylor said that the DOA’s restricted Capitol policy is at the top of her constituents’ minds. She said, “..it really seems to be we are imposing a fee on people’s exercise of their constitutional rights if we’re going to say you have to pay to participate in a large gathering. Then we’re saying in order to express yourself politically, you’re going to have to pay to do that and I don’t know how you all are going to get around some really settled constitutional provisions.”

The response to Rep. Taylor: Answer #2.

Ed K. expressed outright anger for charging for protest: “This is a user fee. We get a policy that’s raising taxes on specific people making use of this building. That’s objectionable. It’s against all of the history of this state…” He added that the public should see what account the money would go to and what would be done with it.”

Ed K. requested both a copy of the previous policy on protests and a base line of regular staffing – such as what might be learned by studying a year’s worth of Capitol officer time sheets. His 2nd request was rebuffed by Tubbs who said that he could not give that information out for security reasons.

Tim R. asked a key question on timing:
“I don’t believe that the question of ‘Why now?’ has been answered adequately at all. You would forgive us all for concluding that this governor will not countenance any dissent. He will not countenance free speech. I recall him saying some months ago ‘Oh the solidarity singers. Those are 20 teachers. Who cares.’ Well it is more than 20 teachers. There’s a lot of people there. It seems to me it is rubbing him the wrong way and THAT is why we are getting this policy and I would like an answer to that.”

DOA disinformation capitol education

The official answer to this “Why now?” question was given already, but it was just so weak, nobody accepted it. Schoenherr said DOA changed the policy now because (1) DOA didn’t believe it had 1 document to answer the public’s questions on permits and (2) There is a precedent set with the status of a lawsuit filed by Ben Masel.

Leslie A. brought files on 3 lawsuits to the meeting. They originated with the late Ben Masel and established that Wisconsinites do not need a permit for assembly in the Capitol or on the Capitol grounds and do not need a permit for an amplification device. She said ” … Are you suggesting that you’re going to require people to get a permit when it’s not required? When it’s settled law? … Is DOA suggesting that they are going to violate settled law in order to conduct an illegal permit process and they will require us to sue the DOA yet again which is at taxpayer expense for the DOA to defend it?”

In reply Chief Tubbs asserted that the largest protests this year were under permits. Tubbs said, “..let me be clear: the permits are not new.”

I made a quick call to Jeff Scott Olsen, an expert in constitutional law who served for decades as attorney for the late constitutional activist Ben Masel. He said Leslie was referencing a lawsuit which challenges the constitutionality of DOA-issued permits to assemble at the Capitol. The filing was amended to substitute the organization NORML for Ben in September. He said that around that time Wisconsin’s Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar told him DOA was going to replace existing regulations in October or November of this year. Olsen said he will work on fighting the DOA case ASAP now that new procedures are out, but he can not pinpoint when his 1st legal action will take place.

After listening to about 1 hour of non-answer answers on DOA’s policy this morning, I thought I may as well give it a shot. I asked, “Do you think that these procedural changes are in line with the principles of democracy?” I got answer # 2 from Schoenherr.

From behind me Jenna Pope shot back at Schoenherr, “You realize that by saying this over and over again it doesn’t make it true.”

The new DOA policy is set to go into effect on Saturday December 17. According to WNPJ, the sponsor of the singing group, Monday, December 19th will be the first day the Solidarity Sing-Along will be subject to the new policy. You can keep up to date with the Solidarity Sing Along group through their facebook page.

More images from the disinformation session are at the blue cheddar facebook page.

Link to highlights of the 22 page policy and a PDF copy.

The ACLU write-up: DOA Information Session on Protest Permit/Liability Scheme Leaves Citizens with More Questions

Brian Standing’s WORT FM report on this event is in this audio news report.

The ‘New York Times’ Goes Slumming – Manhattan Takes on Madison Activists by Joe Vittie

“Wow, someone is finally paying attention to what’s going on,” a friend said.

Our laptops, bags, and coats were spread across the marble floor of the Capitol as we conferred about the evening’s plan. The laughter about the latest ironical protest sign was interrupted by a hushed interjection.

“The New York Times is here.”

It might be difficult for a Manhattan resident to believe, but the locals didn’t dissolve into hysteria: we did not commence a mad dance as we broke into a rousing version of “The Too Fat Polka (She’s too Fat for Me)”.

Nor could The Most Esteemed Mid-West Bureau Chief claim that beer and deep-fried cheese curds were drooled onto her Most Serious Reporter’s Notebook – not even when she interviewed an activist who is reported to suffer from a lack of fine motor skills (when walking with fermented malt beverages near GOP politicians).

For even in provincial Madison, we chedderheads understood that this was the “National Newspaper of Record.” Not only were we finally getting media coverage on the massive constitutional abuses in Wisconsin, we were receiving attention, as if a sacrament, from the Holiest of the Holies, the Priest above all other Priests, from the Revered Church of the Most High Press.

“They were at the Sing Along,” another activist said. “They talked to Chris,” referring to the noon-time Solidarity Sing Along’s music director. Even though no one said it, you could almost hear an “Oooh” of pride from our group.

The Big Time. The Gray Lady had figured out what even the local press could not. It took the national press to get it right, to interview the “right” people and report on the “right” events.

Certainly the august “New York Times” would frame our First Amendment struggle, for the right to carry signs and cameras into the Assembly gallery, against the backdrop of the GOP power grab.

And they would witness that a person could carry a loaded pistol into the Assembly gallery, but if that person was to carry a picture of the same pistol, that they would be removed, handcuffed, arrested, and cited – for some obscure administrative code.

A Doll’s House – The Last Remnants

On November 11, ten days after our action, the article, “Allies Have Doubts About Protesters in Wisconsin”, appeared. Condescension is nothing new to the Wisconsin citizens who struggle to rid their state of the bankrupt “philosophy” of the Ayn Rand Republicans. Joking attempts have been made, by the protestors themselves, to combine all the epithets that have been hurled at them, since the February Capitol occupation, into one coherent diatribe:

Lazy, smelly, unemployed, violent, homeless, hippie, student, communist, fascist, anarchist, out-of-state, paid-agitator, slob, libtard, union thugs.

The “New York Times” reporter, in her report from the Wisconsin Capitol, continued the disparaging theme against this patriotic group, although she accomplished it with a succinct Ivy-league educated alliteration.

The “hardy handful” was her prose summation for the 50 to 150 people she reported on. And she continued her story on these supposed five lone souls, by describing them, with a redundant adjective as, “the last remnants”.

Perhaps the reporter could have been clearer in her representation: the scraps, the unwanted, or the human debris, would have more clearly illustrated her point of view about the protestors, and their political ideology.

“The New York Times” does have a point of view. They did not descend from the Kingdom of Pulitzer, into the Capitol Rotunda, in order to objectively report on the democratic process in Wisconsin. This publishing conglomerate, established 160 years ago, does not merely exist in the culture; they have played, and continue to play, a major role in creating and maintaining a world in which corporate interests outweigh those of the “hardy handful – the last remnants”.

The “Times”, akin to the patriarchal society represented by Torvald Helmer, the banker husband, in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, believes that it is divinely positioned to decide how those born “beneath” it should act in “society”.

But the protestors, like the transformed Nora Helmer, the aggrieved wife, in theater’s first modern masterpiece, refuse to be treated like a doll to be played with, either by the party seemingly most aligned with their interests, the DPW, or the party in power, the GOP.

Just as many of Ibsen’s late 19th century audiences could not understand how a woman could attempt to think, and make life altering decisions, independent of her husband, “The New York Times”, of 2011, cannot fathom that a handful of independently minded citizens would dare assert their rights in a democracy.

But democracy, and the freedom to choose a political life filled with exaltation and joy, as opposed to despair and terror, will continue to be put into practice by the “hardy handful” – each and every day – with or without the approval of our nation’s most esteemed journalists, and their corporate parents.

One of the "last remnants" with his sign.

I am very pleased to have Joe’s permission to publish his piece here. It’s perfect. My one regret is that I must also run a link from my blog to that vile New York Times story.

This is the New York Times article Joe references: Allies Have Doubts About Protesters in Wisconsin

Note: If the New York Times link doesn’t work, try this backup.

200th Solidarity Sing Along Celebration Videos

Here are my videos of the 200th Solidarity Sing Along Celebration from Nov. 3rd at the High Noon Saloon.
You’ll see the Forward Marching band, the Madtown Liberty Players, Chris Reeder the faithful song leader for the Solidarity Sing Along group and hundreds of people who packed the place. We were just as happy as we look and sound in these videos!
You can see photos at my facebook page.

The first longer video compiles highlights from the separate videos below it.

The 10 minute 22 second reel

Backup video link.

Madtown Liberty Players – the Scott Walker Skit

Backup link to video.

Madtown Liberty Players – the Wisconsin Voting Skit

Backup link to video.

Solidarity Forever

Backup link to video.

This Land is Your Land

Backup link to video.

We Shall Overcome

Backup link to video.

Roll the Union On

Backup link to video.

Roll Out the Recall Polka

Backup link to video.

This is What Democracy Looks Like/We shall overcome MIX

Backup link to video.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round

Backup link to video.