Things were hopping in the Wisconsin State Capitol yesterday. Legislators held a 12-hour mining bill hearing that attracted a lot of extra choristers to the daily noon-hour Solidarity Sing Along. Later in the evening, my friend Gloria was the latest victim of Capitol Police Chief David Erwin's crackdown on petite women who like to sing:
Drop below the blob of orange marmalade to read Gloria's personal account of what happened.
That's Not an Option- harassed by the Keystone Kops
Confrontation annoys me. So what do I do with the anxiety it creates? I sing.
It was with that in mind that I went to my State Capitol on Jan 23, the day of the new Mining Bill hearings. I listened to both sides of the story, along with countless- probably several hundred, if not a thousand concerned citizens. The Small Hearing Room was packed. Three overflow rooms held overflow crowds of people listening. Scores of people roamed the halls all day, into the night. My head felt like it would explode. So I sang, as I do many weekday noon hours.
There were easily one to two hundred people singing today. It felt good. I felt better. As a responsible citizen, I left to go to work. Later in the day, after listening to more of the hearing on WISCONSIN EYE, I was drawn back.
There were a handful of people still lingering in the halls at 7pm. I took off my coat & boots, sat against one of the marble pillars of this majestic structure we like to call "Our House", making certain not to obstruct any entryway on the Ground Floor. I started to sing- solo, without a conductor. I was approached by several officers who told me I was too loud. I started to sing quietly & asked if that was ok. "That's better" & they walked away. At the end of the song, I sang the last line loudly. Again, several officers approached me & stated "you've been warned, now you have to leave". However, this is where it gets weird.
A citizen journalist happened to be in an overflow room, listening to the hearings when she reportedly "heard something going on & ran to the rotunda" to find me singing. She started to videotape.
I said ok when told to leave & got up to put my coat on. They asked my name & I would not give it.They asked if I was Gloria. I stated "I will not volunteer that information". They claimed I was "obstructing" while, in fact, every move I made to leave, they obstructed me. They asked for my drivers license, which I was not carrying. I asked to speak to a lawyer & was told "that's not an option". They told me I wasn't allowed to sing during "nonbusiness hrs" & I reminded them that I sing often during "nonbusiness hrs" at noon, which is technically that. I like the little dance that ensued.
I was surrounded by palace guards, from every angle, in every archway, on every level. I felt like I was in the prison yard, until I looked up, at the beloved mosaic of "Justice". I felt strong. I wasn't scared. I looked them straight in the eye.
I stuck to my guns, so to speak (if I'd had a gun, I'd have been within the law. Crazy, huh?) & continued to ask to speak to a lawyer. I made several attempts to leave, I stood still for what seemed an eternity. Then a couple coppers at the main desk yelled over "let her go" (they were on their little walkie talkies with the Wizard of Oz who hides behind the curtain). The ones around me parted the waters & I walked out, escorted by another noontime singer & lover of freedom who was also videotaping. I'd seen her when I first entered the building.
Oh, the last line of the song I was singing? "It's dark as a dungeon, way down in the mine".
Just another day in Fitzwalkerstan...