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.

Link HERE to see images on facebook where you can share and download them.

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.

Special guest on Solidarity Wisconsin Friday 10am: Chris Reeder, song leader of Solidarity Sing Along

I’m pleased as punch to welcome Chis Reeder to the 10AM Solidarity Wisconsin online radio show today.

Here’s a link to the archived show.

If you haven’t heard of the Solidarity Sing Along group, it might be because you’re not from Wisconsin or Spain. Yes-Spain!

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The pro-union songsters who sing at Wisconsin’s Capitol building on every weekday noon to 1PM gained a flurry of positive Wisconsin press including a Sunday May 15 Wisconsin State Journal piece. Now their fame is international due to a YouTube Spanish version of “We Shall Not Be Moved” called “No Nos Moveron”


The video at this moment is at 48,000+ hits and comments from Spain are gushy with thanks:
“Thank you Winsconsin Im sleeping in Seville camping the capital of the south region, its nice see videos like it :). Thank you so much Winsconsin :)”

Two days of the week the singers gather outside the Capitol, as seen in the video, and 3 days of the week, they assemble inside. The singing project is supported by the

Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice or “WNPJ” for short. The recipe for a solidarity sing along project seems rather simple to me: select a song leader, print song books, maintain a facebook page, come to the Capitol building, sing.

But it does help to have a song leader like Chris. Chris is unfailingly positive, injects humor in between songs, and he does not just conduct. Chris does a blend of conducting and dancing which creates an exuberant force field that helps his untrained singers lose the stage fright they may have brought with them. You might catch a little exuberance yourself from this video:

Some of the songs Chis leads have so much natural punch, singers need almost no nudging to fill their lungs with them. “Solidarity Forever” is the favorite song of the group and a chief example. Here is an excerpt from “Solidarity Forever” inside the Capitol rotunda:

I love the sound of those reverberating voices. But not everybody does. Republican Rep. Michelle Litjens from Oshkosh tweeted:
“I’ve had enough! One hour of union protesters singing, “We Will Overcome” etc. in the Capital Rotunda!!! When with the insanity end!”

And a Republican and Waukesha Rep., Paul Farrow, complained the singers have been disrupting work in the Capitol. According to a June 2nd MJS article, “groups visiting the Capitol are typically required to fill out a permit application to prevent scheduling conflicts. Farrow said the Solidarity Singers have not filed a permit and should be required to do so.”

In the article, Chris is quoted in reply: “If you’re going to start requiring permits for people to come in and make their voices heard, I think you’ve crossed the line then.”

I hope you’ll tune in to the live show! If you can not, there will be an archived podcast waiting here on the blog for you later.