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By Rebecca Kemble
About 150 people showed up at the Madison Capitol rotunda today for the Solidarity Sing Along after news of the Capitol Police delivering citations to people’s homes spread last night.
Jason Huberty answered a knock on his door yesterday afternoon to find two Capitol Police officers delivering citations for allegedly violating the Wisconsin Administrative Code earlier in the day at the Sing Along.
“When they came to my home yesterday they said that any subsequent tickets would result in a trip to jail,” Huberty says. “I’m not going to be intimidated by threats of jail. I’ll continue to do the things that I believe are within my rights in that building.” After the Sing Along today, Huberty called the Capitol Police dispatch office to let them know what time he would be home in the event that they wanted to arrest him then.
Brandon Barwick was waylaid by the police as he was walking through the Capitol yesterday afternoon and given a citation for the alleged violation of “obstruct access, passage, ect. (sic).”
And Bart Munger found the police waiting for him at his place of work this morning to deliver a citation to him for holding a banner the day before. “I live in Milton, 40 miles south of here, so they didn’t want to come to my home,” says Munger, who calls the police visit to his place of work “an attempt to get me fired.” Munger works at the University of Wisconsin plumbing shop. “I told the police, ‘You could have waited till noon. You knew where I’d be.’ ” (Munger is at the capitol at noon every day for the Sing Along.) He says one of the officers answered him: “We were told to bring the tickets to me” at work.
The reason they knew where he worked is because, when he was arrested last week for protesting in the capitol, a police officer riffled threw his wallet and found his work ID, Munger says, and put it aside with his driver’s license. “I knew there was something they were going to do about it,” he says. “I just didn’t know it was going to be this extreme.”
Protesters also gathered to denounce Capitol Police chief David Erwin for referring to them, the day before the anniversary of 9/11, as “terrorists, for lack of a better word.” One defender of free speech held up a sign that said, “Singing Is Not Terrorism.”
In attendance at the Sing Along today was Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union. He described the recent crackdown on free speech activists as “unfortunate.” Said Beil, “David Erwin is the sock puppet of Mike Huebsch (Secretary of the Department of Administration) and Scott Walker. They’re using him to crack down on political opposition.” He added, “The Capitol Police have been remarkable over the past year and a half because of their professionalism. They had credibility. But now their new leader has created a whole new law-enforcement regime. They should be spending their time tracking down people creating real problems and protecting children. Instead they’re going to people’s homes in the middle of the night ticketing them. People aren’t intimidated by these tactics. Continuing to make arrests would be the worst thing the Capitol Police could do.”
Bill Dixon, longtime Madison lawyer and former campaign manager for Gary Hart’s presidential run in 1984, attended the rally, as well. Dixon was holding a sign that said, “Protecting Our Constitution.” When asked why he was there, he said: “It’s obligatory. I took an oath forty years ago as a lawyer to protect the Constitution. It’s as simple as that.”
Michael Kissick, a Sing Along participant and occasional legal observer for the ACLU, was also outraged at the crackdown on free speech. “What people complaining about the continued presence of people here fail to understand is that the only reason we’re here is because our political representatives refuse to listen to us,” he said. “Lobbyists and wealthy business people can pay to get an audience with Scott Walker, but the rest of us are left out of the discussion. This is the only venue left for us to express our views on the actions of our government.”
As if to make Kissick’s point, a well-dressed lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators walked by shaking his head. He said, “I’m trying to make a phone call. I wish it were a little quieter in here.”
Rebecca Kemble reports for The Progressive magazine and website. She also participates when she can in the Solidarity Sing Along.