Things may be coming to a head in Wisconsin soon, most interestingly, almost exactly when we will be doing a whole lot of analysis on the Wisconsin uprisings’ past and future at Netroots New York.
Jason Stein at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lays out the specifics on what is going on in terms of Walker’s attempt to hold protesters financially liable and compel them to apply for permits for any demonstrations of four or more 72 hours in advance.
The Journal-Sentinel quotes several experts on the First Amendment who are skeptical that Walker's new polices are constitutional. This should not be surprising, since in some respects they are more onerous than those in Brunei -- which is ruled by a literal Sultan and has been under martial law since 1962.
Yet why would Walker go with this move, and why now? So far, what I’ve been hearing from Madison blogger Bluecheddar and local #occupy organizers Jenna Pope and Bill Fetty is that the specifics behind the restrictions are being taken as a direct response to the ‘Solidarity Sing Along’, which has gotten under Walker’s skin to say the least.
The Solidarity Sing Along itself may further be one of the best examples of how---even aside from the recalls---the prevailing spirit of the State Capitol occupation has never left.
The sing alongs began at the State Capitol in Madison on March 11, 2011, and one has been held at the Capitol every week-day at noon since. And similarly (at least in terms of tactics) to occupation, “they serve to maintain a continuous progressive, pro-labor presence at the Capitol, as well as providing a place where union members, activists, and citizens can come together and rejuvenate their spirits through song as we continue the fight against Governor Walker and his Republican allies.”
Indeed, I've been assured that every day since the mass protests started dying down there has been an average of 50-100 Wisconsinites who go back to the site of the occupation to use song in a continuous action against Governor Walker.
And as the prevailing spirit of that first great occupation at the State Capitol would dictate, the Solidarity Singers will not abide these new restrictions!
The Wisconsin Department of Administration has announced a new policy that would require demonstrations inside the Capitol of four or more people to request permits of the state 72 hours in advance, and could require protest groups to reimburse the state for the cost of policing them, at a cost of $50 per officer per hour. WNPJ member group Solidarity Sing-Along would be severely impacted by the policy, as the group routinely brings more than 100 people into the Capitol rotunda for daily mass singing in support of worker rights and a fair budget, and has been doing so for more than 40 weeks. Representatives from the DOA and Capitol Police refused to clarify how they would respond to groups that continued to protest without a permit.
Take Action: Monday, December 19th will be the first day the Solidarity Sing-Along will be subject to the new policy. Please join the Sing-Along at noon in the Capitol rotunda on the 19th and subsequent days to support the group's exercise of the first amendment. WNPJ member group One Wisconsin Now has also created an online petition to allow you to express support for the singers and free speech.
Monday’s action to try and convince Scott Walker to #OccupyTheConstitution will be important to say the least. It will represent a similar standoff that we have been seeing across the country (and world) with the movement stemming from Occupy Wall Street, and which we likewise saw consistently at the State Capitol occupation last spring.
Bluecheddar reports back on what Madison Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs had to say about that possibility:
Brian S. asked about the “hypothetical” on everybody’s mind:
“”Let’s say that whenever the implementation date is, that there are 150 singers in the rotunda, are you prepared to make 150 arrests if those people do not voluntarily comply?”
Tubbs: I’m not going to respond to a hypothetical
Brian S.: It is not a hypothetical.
Tubbs: We will evaluate that situation. I am not going to give up the ability we have as a law enforcement agency to professionally deal with a situation that could be questionable.”
So will Scott Walker be using this dubiously constitutional provision to have a mass arrest of solidarity singers right before Christmas?
We may be finding out...