In the past 3 weeks, a number of Wisconsin Kossacks, including me, have been documenting the abuses being perpetrated by Wisconsin Capitol Police officers upon peaceful citizens protesting in the state Capitol. Those abuses have been orchestrated by the new Capitol Police Chief, David Erwin. Chief Erwin has also launched a media attack against those same peaceful protesters alleging all kinds of wild behavior.
On September 10th, he suggested that sign-holders and singers have been "terrorizing" staffers, legislators, and visitors, without giving any specifics. His officers have made dozens of arrests of "regular protesters" in the past few weeks, none of them for anything other than holding signs, draping banners over the rotunda, and failing to get a permit to sing If I Had a Hammer inside the building. You would think with all this terrorism and intimidation going on, we would have seen people arrested for something serious. Instead, people are being charged with violating obscure sections of the administrative code dealing with hazardous materials and heavy machinery left in the hallway.
The chief even said that people holding signs hurled insults at Red Cross volunteers at a blood drive being held on the opposite side of the rotunda one day. I didn't see anything like that while I was there but surely, with all the cops and video cameras they had swarming around the protesters that day, they arrested someone for that, right? That seems like a fairly straightforward violation, right? Easy to prosecute, got it all on video. Uhhh...no. Instead,they arrested people for holding up T-shirts they had received from Muslims for Life, an organization that encourages blood donations that had a display next to the blood drive that day. If he weren't a Chief, I'd swear he made the whole thing up.
So you might be asking why? What's the Chief trying to accomplish? Here's my theory, but keep in mind I've never met the Chief. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn't talk to regular people. I think the Chief keeps pursuing this ridiculous strategy of manufacturing tales of terrorism in the building while harassing peaceful protesters because he comes from a military background, then served in the State Patrol before becoming Chief of the Capitol Police. Unlike most veterans, he can't adjust to the much less authoritarian civilian world. Citizens with loud mouths aren't citizens, they're just maggots that need to be broken down, and when they refuse to be broken down, he needs to teach them a lesson. When they still won't obey orders, they become the enemy. He gets more and more frustrated as this approach fails time after time. That's my theory, anyway.
He also can't wrap his head around the idea that there are no leaders among us. He is attempting, like a good military strategist, to cut the head off the snake, but what he sees as a snake is just a song circle. There is no head or tail. Like a neighborhood pick-up basketball game, there is no formal structure. Everyone knows that if they show up in the Capitol from noon to one weekdays, there will probably be people there singing. That's all it is.
The people who bring signs or chalk the sidewalk? They are just citizens who oppose the policies of the current administration. Some of them sing along while they hold their signs, but there's no plot, no secret funding, no terrorist organization, no political party, no roster, no dues, no clubhouse, no secret handshake, no marching orders, no union bosses, not even a meeting. People are just pissed off.
Yes, believe it or not, when the government strips basic rights from large classes of people, when they "drop the bomb" on public workers, when they admit they advocate the use of violence to break up peaceful protests, when they pass laws suppressing voting rights in a democracy, and when they openly mock and dehumanize 48% of the people or refuse to even have a conversation with legislators in the minority party, citizens don't like it. Shocking, isn't it? The Capitol rotunda was designed as a public forum, so when citizens in Wisconsin have an urge to petition their government, that's where they go, just like they go to the playground when they have the urge to play basketball.
A reporter from a local paper asked me on Friday what I thought the "strategy" of the Solidarity Sing Along was going to be now that Chief Erwin had made these aggressive moves against protesters. "I can only speak for myself, but probably show up on Monday and sing for an hour," was my answer. There was an awkward pause, like he expected more, but there is no more. There is no "they" there.