Wednesday, August 7th, was a very strange day in my formerly wonderful state of Wisconsin. My friend and I went to Madison to shop, visit the State Capitol at noon to sing, and then we were probably going to go to Olbrich Gardens to see the butterflies, and maybe visit a quilt shop!
We knew that it was possible to be arrested for singing...which is a very strange thing to say, I must tell you!! It has been declared unlawful for more than 20 people to gather and sing in our beautiful capitol without a permit. This peaceful singing began over two years ago during the Wisconsin Uprising when hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Madison around the square and in the capitol to protest very abrupt lawmaking leading to the loss of collective bargaining rights fought for years before by our parents and grandparents- a discussion for another day!
People have been coming between noon and 1 pm every week day to sing. It is a very peaceful group. Sometimes they sing outside when events are going on in the capitol rotunda, and inside most other times. There are some people who come more often, but the singing group varies in size as people come and go. My friend and I came two times over the last two years.
It's a complicated situation that most people coming to Daily Kos know about, but in the last few weeks, the Capitol Police have begun arresting people for singing....and often for simply observing.
We hemmed and hawed about going to the Capitol. We knew in our heads that we could be arrested, but didn't believe it would really happen.....
We found parking, walked around the beautiful building and went in the State Street doors. People were outside singing and they said as we walked by: "Are they still arresting people in there?" We went in and of course stopped at the bathroom...because that's what we do. Then on we went to get closer to the singing. We stood by one of the pillars near the outer edge of the crowd, and there was a song I kind of knew...I sang a bit (four or five words) but I didn't really know the words. I turned to my friend and there were three officers behind me. Yikes!
It's a bit fuzzy already (that is what age does to us!), but one of the officers said we had to leave or risk being arrested. Then he asked me if I would leave because I risked being arrested. I said that I was staying. The young woman officer was reluctant to arrest me, but the older officer seemed to be in charge. They put handcuffs (real ones, not the plastic ties) on me with my hands behind my back after taking my purse off my shoulder. It's a very full and colorful purse, and I was worried about it the whole time! It's funny what we worry about at times.
People were taking pictures and videos and calling out, "Hero!" It felt good and very odd all at the same time.
They walked me to the elevator and we rode down to the former cafeteria in the basement...now used as a place to fill out citations. I asked about my purse a few times, but otherwise there was no talk. I did make eye contact with the young woman officer a few times. She seemed to be embarrassed....at least I thought so.
First she asked me if I had anything on me that would hurt her! I said no. Then I was patted down. Other than the airport, this was my first pat-down. She then asked if I had my ID in my purse. I think she asked for permission to look, but I can't remember that either! She found my wallet, and I started telling her where my ID was. Then I decided she should find it herself. It was a small thing, but felt big to me. I was still in handcuffs, by the way.
She filled out the citation form, gave my ID to a young woman who took it to make a copy (I assume) and check for outstanding warrants, I guess, and we sat and waited. Nothing was said. I think I was in a bit of shock. Oh, I did ask where the $200.50 would be going, and I commented that it would be nice if the cafeteria was used for lunches instead of arrests.
When the young woman came back, they took off the cuffs, and I was free to go. As I was leaving, the officers were behind me and I held the door for them. They said thank you. Nothing beats remembering courtesy. How weird this all is/was!!
They also told me if I went back to the Rotunda, I risked arrest again. I was trying to figure out how to find my friend and walked outside the same doors I came in. I texted her and then called her. She came out, and we hugged a few times. My feelings were so complicated: a bit embarrassed, a bit proud, a bit surreal, and more! I have never been arrested before.
We sat on a wall near the sidewalk, and a lady walked by on her phone. My friend overheard her say she had been arrested, too. So we followed her and talked awhile. She said not to pay the fine and to contest it at the court date. (It's interesting.....my first thought was to pay and move on...years of conditioning, I think.) So, I am going to court this Friday to plead not guilty....for singing! More strangeness!!
I texted my adult kids and told them I am now a perp. I was an adult education teacher at the county jail for 10 years, and I am sure they never thought they would hear me say I was arrested.
They actually are proud of my civil disobedience. I am, too.