Without fail, every time I need a little morale boost to fire me up again about the fight at hand in Wisconsin, the thugs running the show in Fitzwalkerstan decide to go and do something to throw fuel on the fire. In this case, newly installed Capitol Police Chief, former Marine Drill Sergeant, burgeoning fascist and most recently lead bodyguard of Governer Scott Walker's security team, David Erwin, provided the gas can.
David Erwin, the newly appointed leader of Governer Walker's Palace Guard, decided to go public on Monday with the admission that he and his officers would soon begin enforcing the draconian and unconstitutional Capitol Rules Access Policy rules put into place last December via the virtually unchecked power of the Wisconsin Department of Administration. As Rebecca Kemble, a friend and fellow participant in many of the daily Sing Alongs, wrote yesterday for The Progressive Magazine:
Erwin has promised to begin enforcing the rule that states that any group of four or more people gathered in the rotunda for an event must apply for a permit at least 72 hours in advance. Part of the permit application holds harmless the State of Wisconsin, including the Capitol Police, against any claim of personal injury, and instead puts the permit applicant on the hook for any damage or injury caused in the course of the event.But as Article I, Section IV of the Wisconsin State Constitution clearly states:
The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the commonRegardless of this unambiguously worded maxim, Chief Erwin said that:
good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof,
shall never (emphasis mine) be abridged.
"There is a time and place for free speech, and we reserve the right to regulate that a little bit."
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kemble
According to Chief Erwin, the participants in the daily and unfailingly peaceful Solidarity Sing Along, nearing its 450th installment since its humble beginnings on March 11th, 2011, and any other citizens, will soon be expected to adhere to these rules at the Capitol. This act of curtailing the freedoms of speech, assembly and the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances in the public circle adoringly referred to by many as the People's House, would be a shameless affront to both our state’s history of dissent, as well as to the intent for which our capitol building was purposefully designed. Those who refuse to adhere to these dictates, once enforced, will face a likelihood of citations and arrests. These civil forfeitures will increasingly be destined for the courtroom as Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and the Wisconsin Department of Justice have recently agreed to try civil cases in Madison as part of their own contribution to the regime's pending crackdown on the exercise of 1st Amendment Rights. To make matters worse, Erwin rationalized the need for this crackdown by preposterously proclaiming this unconstitutional infringement of rights a necessity to return the Capitol to a sense of "normalcy" and ensure the “safety” of those inside...while also appallingly instructing legislative staffers to film protesters in their vicinity with one hand and if feeling "threatened or intimidated" by their fellow citizens, to punch them in the nose with the other hand. As pointed out in this wonderful diary written on Tuesday by our own Wisco Kossack AnnieJo:
"I said if it wasn't working you could try to hit them," Erwin said.What the FUCK?!? Really, Chief? As reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Erwin later went on to say to that his advice was "taken out of context."
Of course it was!!
Chief Erwin first endeared himself to the general public in this video clip. While heading up Walker's security team during last winter's protests in Madison, Erwin showed what he thinks of the rights of public citizens with this shamelessly authoritarian display while the state Capitol was under unconstitutional lockdown by decree of the DOA.
Unfortunately, Erwin must not have seen the signs around the Capitol during last winter's protests reminding and warning Scott Walker and his henchmen that "If you screw us, we multiply." Surely enough, as I bound up the steps leading to the Capitol shortly after noon, freshly-inked sign in hand, I began to push open the revolving wooden doors and instantaneously heard the melodic energy of the moment straining out from within the building's core.
There was a boisterous and noticeably increased presence of nearly 200 undeterred singers and activists (not to mention a number of police officers videotaping the proceedings) inside of the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday. I hadn't been inside our secular cathedral since the 400th Solidarity Sing Along that I wrote about back in mid-June, when the whispers of an impending post-Recall crackdown began growing into a roar amongst the Wisconsin dissidents. Regardless, I knew that today was a day for all of us to make a statement of Solidarity and I was ecstatic to return from my doldrums to such a moving scene. I wouldn't have missed this moment for the world...
As always, looking around at the friendly faces and hearing the songs of peace, labor, solidarity, civil rights and Wisconsin echoing beautifully throughout our majestic Capitol Rotunda, was an emotional lift for everyone fortunate enough to attend and a cathartic experience for myself after having been away for what seemed like an eternity. The sights and sounds of this afternoon reminded me that this fight for our state we once knew will continue to go on, as Madison and Wisconsin continue to serve as a front line in a national battle portending a right-wing induced, rapid descent away from a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The overtly abominable display of police and military force currently being deployed and flaunted around peaceful protesters of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida is evidence enough that we are not alone in said fight.
This figurative kick in the ass (or maybe, I should say, "punch in the nose") by Walker's administration, and the ensuing response by the Movement, was just the right catalyst for me to shake the cobwebs off of my activism. Although today's Sing Along took place under the dark cloud of looming suppression, one only needed to look just a little bit higher above for inspiration. As I leaned on the first floor balcony between songs, I tilted my head back and, as always, nestled into the ornately designed architecture of the soaring Capitol dome was the Heart Balloon. Ever present since last February's Capitol Occupation and accompanying protests, that red balloon has dutifully watched over the proceedings below, never wavering, always peaceful...serving as the perfect symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Solidarity Sing Along and, more importantly, the Wisconsin Movement in general. Scott Walker and his cronies have been ceaselessly brazen in their noxious attempts to intimidate the citizens of Wisconsin, quell our dissent, silence both our individual and collective voice, and instill fear. But for as long as the leaders of Fitzwalkerstan continuously strive to impose their will, just take a look around the Capitol...and far beneath the loyal Heart Balloon...we'll assuredly still be here.
SOLIDARITY and FOREVER FORWARD!!
*This diary was originally posted as a Facebook note on August 29th, 2012 and then updated for the Daily Kos on August 31st, 2012
12:17 AM PT: With this diary headed for the Community Spotlight shortly, I figured it would be a good time to encourage you to go "like" the Solidarity Sing Along Facebook page, where you can keep up to date on the latest goings on and see what is happening around the Wisconsin Capitol. I am also sharing the link to the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative website. This dedicated group is a collection of citizen journalists (many of whom frequent the Sing Alongs) who since last year have been diligently reporting on the events surrounding the Capitol and around Wisconsin from the front lines of the fight and aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Solidarity!!
2:37 AM PT: I might as well include a picture of the loyal Heart Balloon that perpetually floats high above the ground floor of the Capitol. You can see it near the center of the picture, to the left of the mural. Photo courtesy of Leslie Peterson