Conservatives take the rotunda. Solidarity singers sing outside. A good time was had by all.

Warning: no assaults or claims of choking are to be found in this story of dueling singers.

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After a visit from gun right activists last Tuesday, a Solidarity Sing Along singer wound up with a chipped tooth. So I didn’t welcome news of a conservative group coming to sing yesterday at the Capitol. I wondered if we’d see another act of violence.  In the end, there was no conflict to speak of.

When I asked Blaska why he was  inspired to organize his  own conservative singing day at the Capitol he replied, “Dave Zien” and added “There’s some frustration with the fact that  these people have taken over the rotunda every day and I think there’s a good reason for a permit, simply so you allow everybody to get a chance.”

Retired senator Zien’s frustration was expressed by yelling and careening counter-clockwise around the Capitol rotunda floor last Tuesday aiming his wheelchair at the feet of singers. I’m glad Blaska has selected a more civil form of expression.

While there may be frustration, I doubt it can be entirely pinned on nobody else getting a chance to be in the Capitol since the singers go outside to sing on Monday and Friday every week. Also, group co-leader Steve Burns told me yesterday that whenever a group has a permit and communicates with the singers about their needs, they have moved out of the building “We often move outside the Capitol – for a school group or anything like that.” I’ll add that the  singers only sing from noon to 1PM on weekdays  when many workers and politicians leave the Capitol building for lunch.

About 40 conservatives convened to sing with Isthmus blogger Dave Blaska. To me they looked a little older on average than the Solidarity Singers – maybe 50 years old was “young” for the group. The oddest things they did were sing some TV theme songs – The FlintstonesGilligan’s Island andGreen Acres – and bring in some different flags. In the photo below you’ll see somebody holding the “don’t tread on me” flag and the flag of Arizona. I wish I’d asked this person directly what this meant to them, because now it haunts me. I can’t make sense of it.

When I put the question to this blog’s facebook fans, I got this response:”..I think AZ is aspirational for WI Tea Baggers. They see Jan Brewer, John McCain & the Minutemen as beacons of hope.”

By the time I dropped in to listen, the singers had switched to songs like the Marine Hymnn, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and the Star Spangled Banner. Their group included some good singers capable of harmonizing.

While they sang, about 3 people held signs on the main floor from the solidarity singers group, and perhaps 5 people, including Jeremy Ryan, held a banner on the upper floor that compared the GOP to ALEC.

Relations between group leaders remained amicable.  “When other groups are using the rotunda we move outside, as well, to make sure they have use of the space. It is consistent with what we’ve done for every other group … it’s their house as well as ours; it is everybody’s house.” – Chris Reeder a leader for Solidarity Sing Along, cited in WRN

Blaska told me he did discuss sharing songs with the Solidarity Singers but that logistics didn’t allow for it.  I’m guessing that the two group’s taste in songs wouldn’t mesh anyway, given that one group sings about coming after “Scotty” and the conservative group is, well, supportive of Scott Walker.

To affirm everybody’s right to peacefully assemble and speak, Chris Reeder took a break from singing and led roughly 200 in reading Article 1 Section 4 of the Wisconsin constitution [what you see in the opening of the video below].

When I asked the Solidarity Sing Along founder Steve Burns what his opinion is of seeking a permit to sing in the rotunda, he replied:

“I think my opinion about freedom of speech is probably what the other side’s opinion is about being able to carry a gun which is that we shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission. So just as some of them might say well I can walk around the streets with a gun without having to get a permit we feel like people should be able to come into the Capitol and express their views in a group without having to ask the government for a permission slip.”

Here’s a 3 minute video I did on the event.

WNPJ sponsors the daily Solidarity Sing Along project.