Over the past two years, photographer Lisa Wells has spent hundreds of hours documenting Wisconsin's daily singing protest known as the Solidarity Sing Along. Lisa takes at least a hundred photos a day, often many more, of the noon-hour singing protest that has taken place at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison every weekday since March 11th, 2011.
Lisa shares her photos on facebook with her circle of friends and has been very generous in allowing me to post some of her photos here. I would like to share one that was taken during the Solidarity Sing Along on November 15th, 2012.
Of the tens of thousands of photo's Lisa has posted, it's one of my favorites. Over the past few months, the three women in the photo have each received tickets from the Capitol Police for singing, holding signs, or simply speaking out against the policies of Governor Scott Walker and his newly appointed Chief of the Capitol Police, David Erwin.
Under Erwin's demented leadership, rank and file Capitol Police officers have been forced to issue more than 100 citations to peaceful singers, sign-holders, and sidewalk chalkers since September. Lisa has received a few. So have I.
Erwin knows that the tickets, which are similiar to traffic tickets in severity, will not hold up in court. His plan was to intimidate occasional participants by identifying and citing "leaders" of the leaderless Sing Along for violating wildly interpreted sections of Wisconsin's administrative code. Coupled with a harsh disinformation campaign he launched, he and Walker assumed they would be able to divide and conquer the singing citizens.
Here is the photo, a perfect illustration of what their divide and conquer campaign has accomplished:
They sure look intimidated, don't they?
While the photo is unique, it captures a sentiment that is expressed in word or deed at the Sing Along dozens of times each noon hour. Our extended family of activists greet each other with hugs, handshakes, fist bumps and solidarity salutes as we gather in the rotunda or on the capitol lawn. Having been victimized by Erwin's terror campaign has only brought us closer together and strengthened our resolve. We talk about being arrested, or what our lawyers are advising, or how our families are reacting to the turmoil. We talk about the new organic bakery that opened on State Street, or the shameful treatment of homeless citizens in our town, or election results, or any other news. We invite each other to parties and to protests. We're leaderless but we're connected. Our conversations often result in concrete actions, from something as minor as helping someone start their car to collecting food for striking workers at the Palermo's pizza factory in Milwaukee, or joining with the Overpass Light Brigade to protest the police state tactics of Governor Walker, or registering voters, or donating gas money to someone who has to drive into Madison several times a month for cancer treatments.
I have mentioned previously that Chief Erwin might have read at least one of my posts. If he is reading this one I want him to know that he will not break us. We will be at the Capitol long after he and his boss are gone.
Chief Erwin, look at the photo above, then take a look at the grim faces on the officers you have humiliated by forcing them to issue citations to peaceful, harmless singers. Really, who's winning this battle? You need to understand that we are there not just because we have a right to be there. We're there because it's our obligation as citizens to resist what your ethically-challenged boss is doing. Your little, pink citations won't change that.
At this time of Thanksgiving I want to thank the thousands of people who have participated in the Solidarity Sing Along. Whether you've sung along with a video of us on Youtube or over 500 times in person, you are part of the family. Enjoy a chorus of "Bring Back Wisconsin to Me."