Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Crackdown in the Capitol shifts to observers of the Sing Along

Police begin to target those who document and watch events of the rotunda

The latest developments from the saga at the Capitol rotunda has the police there making new threats to observers of the sing along, a step that’s designed to thwart not just those who take part, but also those who have watched as well as the police cuffed peaceful demonstrators at the command of the Walker administration.

People who have no connection to the event are being treated as though they are part of it. For instance, this video shows a young woman, who is above the singers, recording them on her own electronic device, being told by Capitol police that she, too, was subject to arrest:

Casual observers weren’t the only ones given this sort of treatment -- indeed, Assemblywoman Sondy Pope, a Democrat from Middleton, was also told that she was considered a participant of the sing along by Capitol police, even though she was observing quietly two floors above the singers:
Officer Andrew Hyatt was circling the upper level of the Rotunda on Tuesday, warning observers that the chief of police considered the sing-along an unlawful gathering and therefore spectators were subject to arrest.

"Whether singing or observing, everyone is subject to arrest," he told one observer. When asked to define the parameters in which observers were subject to arrest, Hyatt said "in this area."

Capitol Police Chief David Erwin maintains that participants in the Solidarity Sing Along need a permit to gather in the Capitol Rotunda.

[Rep. Sondy] Pope said she didn't say anything to the Capitol Police officer who threatened her with arrest, but she did leave her spot by the banister. "As a legislator I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I think what [the police] are doing is unconstitutional. How can you arrest me for observing?

"I have a duty to observe what is happening to my constituents who are expressing their discontent," Pope added. "How can I be arrested for that?"


Pope said she worries about the impression those visitors will take away of Wisconsin.

"I know there are tourists here. What must they think of this state?"
Emphases added.

The precedent being set by Capitol police, who are acting through the dictates of Department of Administration (and thus Gov. Walker himself), is troubling indeed. At what point is an observer a member of the group? That distinction is never made.

Certainly some have come to document the mistreatment and unfair punishment of a group that is merely exercising its right to address its state lawmakers. To that end, observers may be seen as sympathizers to the participants of the Solidarity Sing Along.

But sympathy to a group doesn’t make you a member of it. And if Capitol police are going to arrest people who are there as mere observers to an event, then the situation at the rotunda is even graver than once imagined.


If you want to help the Solidarity Singers, you can visit solidaritysingalong.org to donate to the First Amendment fund. With all of the citations being handed to them, they’re going to need all the help they can get. Please consider giving!

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