Walker's Wisconsin – Why not get a permit?

It all appears so simple

The Issue
At issue is whether the Solidarity Singalong needs a permit to protest in the Capitol rotunda when more than 20 members are present. The Capitol Police have already stated they would approve a permit if the singers applied for one.

Solidarity Singers say:

“It’s a public forum where people have the right to gather and petition their government,” said Bill Dunn, 63, of Middleton, who was one of those arrested.

Walker Administration says:
“The permit is free and the group could continue to say and sing the same things they are today,” said Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquissaid in a statement.
Host Madison

On the surface, it might appear the Solidarity Singers are being close minded, stubborn, attention seekers as suggested in a question from Host Madison columnist Chris Rickert to Bill Dunn (mentioned in the report above as one of those recently arrested).

Chris Rickert
10:43 AM (yesterday)
Hey Bill: I assume you’re the same Bill Dunn arrested yesterday at the sing-along.
I have a snark-free question for you if you’re willing to comment.
I’m interested in what the Solidarity Singalong’s legacy will be. In other words, at the time they are occurring, lots of protest movements are considered irritating or pointless or self-righteous, etc. They clearly go for media coverage, with cameras and dramatic arrests, to the irritation of curmudgeons like me.
But if the protesters end up being on the right side of history, all that irritating stuff looks heroic and justified in retrospect, no matter how staged or pointless it might have seemed at the time.
I know you might be biased, but what do you think?

Suddenly, it is not so simple.

The advantage of the appearance of simplicity of the rule goes to the Walker Administration, since a full answer and complete understanding requires a look back at the recent history of origin of the “simple rule” in the first place. The “simple rule” did not just crop up a few days ago as some minor constraint, it goes back to the big one, way, way back to the announcement to curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers when the capitol was literally possessed for days by actions of protest. It was that action, a nationally focused event, that proved an embarrassment to the GOP legislature and the Walker Administration that lead to the “simple rule”. Any discussion regarding the “simple rule” taken out of the context of its evolution is just more face book, twitter, social fretwork banter.

The back story of the “simple rule”

Nass is calling on the state Department of Administration to investigate Tubbs’ actions during the protests.

It began with Chief Tubs and his handling of the collective bargaining protest.

It began with a nasty threat from Steve Nass – Whitewater (pictured below in a photo by
Carolyn Fath as he is flanked by Mike Mikalsen who is quoted as saying, “Part of the issue is we have foreign-born professors. Those professors say things.”)

Nass wants Chief Tubbs removed from his position if it’s found that he neglected his duty of keeping lawmakers safe. In Nass’ demonstration Mike Mikalson and Rep. Steve Nass by Carolyn Fath 2007of his convoluted logic, he comes up with a connection about as provable as the string theory. Nass links an incident, where beer was poured on the head of (ALEC chairman) Robin Voss, to Chief Tubbs and the manner he handled the demonstrations at the Capitol over the past months. Makes perfect sense? According to Nass, it was obviously Tubb’s fault. He said protesters have continued to get away with more and more and now, he and his fellow Republican lawmakers are “on guard” at all times in and around the Capitol. Ashamed the law is such a N’ass. Sept. 2011

Arrest Everyone

The “simple rule” grew out of legislation such as AB237 cosponsored, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)

AB237, which would give arrest powers to law enforcement officials over anyone “violating a law that constitutes a civil forfeiture if the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is violating or has violated the law.

Does it follow that Capital Police can “arrest anyone”, even those leaning over the gallery and merely watching other people sing?

The real and present “simple rule”

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The right to protest is a given in the Bill of Rights. Peaceful protests and demonstrations have and will always be a part of democracy. It is through law enforcement where the rubber meets the road, or the club meets the head. Through a long history of protest in this country, we have witnessed different methods of dealing with protest.

The old way is reflected in the “simple rule”. The old way is to use authoritarian constructs, legislation, and policing by force to limit the basic right of people to assemble as expressed, not only in the Constitution, but in the Bill of Rights.

The new way was reflected in Chief Tubs handling of “the big one” when he instituted rules that provided for safety, communication, and the public expression of the peoples’ rights. The GOP Legislature and the Walker Administration issued their verdict and have chosen the “old way” of dealing with the Bill of Rights, just as they have on women’s rights and voting rights.

Tubs is to blame

Nass said that while the number of protesters at the Capitol has dwindled since the spring, the aggressive nature of the protesters has escalated.

Nass said Tubbs is the person to blame for this increase in aggression because he’s gone out of his way to go easy on protesters occupying the Capitol for weeks earlier this year.

More on “Old Method such an ‘Nass”


The “old method” of handling the people’s exercise of 1st Amendment rights, is as familiar as it is ineffective. We have seen the “old method” decade after decade always with the same result. Death, injury, tear gas, beating and brutality. Before Tubbs, it may have appeared the only way to protect and serve. It begins subtly, often in the dark of night. It is not an action but an attitude, as demonstrated in a recent video captured at the Occupy Wall Street action. It demonstrates the tired, subtle, old attitude of some law enforcement officers when approaching a peaceful demonstration.
“My little night stick is gonna get a work out tonight”

The “Old Method” has failed for decades in hundreds of instances, resulting in the injury and death of hundreds of people.

1) No communication with city officials and protest leaders.

The people and the officials do not communicate. The hollow between an attitude of fear and an attitude of freedom is filled with an unknown, most always played out in aggression, violence, injury and death. Mayors, City Officials communicate to law enforcement that the people have no right to assemble. They are a threat to their political future.

This needless atrocity has been played out in the streets of the world, time after time, always with the same tragic and predictable result as demonstrated most recently on the streets of Oakland, California.
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Scott Olsen
His name is Scott Olsen. He is a veteran of two tours in Iraq, only to be brought down by the Oakland Police. His family live in Onalaska, Wisconsin. All so unnecessary. A direct victim of the old attitude turned into unleashed violence as is inevitable. We know this from every past instance of handling protest with the “Old methods”.

It all begins so subtly as right here in Wisconsin – Arrest Everyone

It begins with the belief in the old method, that police should be empowered as they see fit to squash the people’s 1st Amendment right. Case in point, the bill moved out of committee in the Wisconsin Assemply:

AB237, which would give arrest powers to law enforcement officials over anyone “violating a law that constitutes a civil forfeiture if the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is violating or has violated the law.

The bill was introduced to give the Wisconsin State Patrol reassurance that they are empowered to arrest person’s who are exercising their rights provided by Wisconsin statutes to film, and photograph the assembly proceedings from the public gallery. Thus far, the action of the State Patrol demonstated below is not really legal.

Notice the “my little night stick” expressions on the faces of the Wisconsin State Patrol in the short video.

An example of the “old method” occurring daily in the public gallery of the assembly house in Wisconsin. The action is so questionable the State Patrol needs reassurance for its action in the form of Bill AB237.

One of the bill’s cosponsors, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), did not respond to requests for comment by initial publication of the article regarding the bill. Arrest Everyone

He expresses the “old method” of handling protest so well in his own campaign add.

Van Wanggaard – Racine’s Finest from Intrepid on Vimeo.

The “simple answer” to Chris Rickert

Without going into the recent history of the “simple rule” to arrest singers who do not have a permit or if it is wise and expedient to dismiss the full history of authoritarian edicts of legislators, and the Governor in developing the old and authoritarian means of control, then there is a simple answer. I could not state it more clearly than Joseph Skulan as he offered an answer to Chris Rickert’s question:

Face Book – Joseph Skulan to Bill: could you pass this on to him from me?

Word is that you are looking for one of the Solidary Sing Along regulars to explain why they do no apply for a permit. That you are having a hard time getting anyone to respond is not surprising, as the Wisconsin press in general, and your newspaper in particular, are not take very seriously by those of us who have been observing them at close range over the past few years. For my part it is not the integrity of journalists that I doubt, but their basic intelligence.

But that is another conversation. Why don’t “we” apply for a permit? Three reasons:

1. Asking the very same government that you are protesting for permission to protest it is ipso facto absurd.

2. The Solidarity Sing Along is not an official organization, but a loose, informal and ever changing collection of individuals. There is no one who speaks for it as a group, and no mechanism either for selecting such a person or making any kind of collective decision. Under these conditions, who exactly would apply for a permit?

3. With a permit comes open ended financial liability. A permit holder agrees to pay for all costs (security, cleanup, damage repair) as assessed by the DOA after the fact. Surely even you can see the problem here. It would be foolhardy for any political opponents of Walker to put their financial well being in the hands of his Department of Administration. I would much rather accumulate $200.50 tickets week after week than open myself up to financial retaliation and ruin from a regime that has shown itself to be both vengeful and dishonest at every turn. And do you honestly believe that, given Walker’s history, fears of such retaliation are unfounded? Not applying for a permit is simple common sense.

Journalism is too steeped in the conventions of its day to be of much value to future historians as anything other than a record of prevailing prejudice.”

Please visit my “other blog” for news of my new play “House of Monkeys” – a musical romp through the love, life, and work of Moliere!

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