On the day that the Wisconsin Department of Administration said they were going to begin enforcement of new permitting rules governing protests in the Capitol, well over 500 people showed up to challenge them.
The ACLU held a press conference about the rules at 11 am, calling them "ill considered" and unconstitutional. National Lawyers Guild member William Turner said the rules were clearly an attempt to forestall protests, and were thus unconstitutional. "The reason we have government is to petition for rights," he added.
Referring to the provision in the policy that holds the Department of Administration and Capitol Police harmless if they should injure or kill someone in the line of duty, Representative Chris Taylor said, "It is totally inappropriate to ask citizens to waive their rights away."
Senator Spencer Coggs, a regular at the Solidarity Sing-along, noted that "the harmony has gotten great!" He expressed worries about selective enforcement of the rules and he predicted that they would only be enforced against people protesting Scott Walker.
A veteran of local politics and disabled rights activism, Barbara Vedder raised the question of unequal access to government officials inherent in the new rules and the provision for paying for a bond. She questioned the reason behind restricting access for people to come to the Capitol to tell their representatives, "This is what we need."
Sam Gellner of Young Progressives, an organization that represents area high school and college students, commented on the change in the policy that exempts lobbyists from the rules. Making different rules apply to lobbyists and citizens "sends a powerful message about the priorities of the Walker administration and it's not the right one," he said.
Following the press conference the hundred or so regulars of the Solidarity Sing-along were joined by hundreds more in an hour of singing joyful, defiant, homespun holiday tunes describing the plight of Wisconsin and urging the ouster of Governor Walker. About a dozen Capitol Police were casually on duty, and no arrests were made.
The holiday message to Scott Walker and his cronies from the outraged citizens of Wisconsin was loud and clear: "We're Baaaaaaaaaaaack!"
Rebecca Kemble is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.