Wisconsin State Constitution
Article 1, Section 4
The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.
Yesterday, I heard this NPR report about the DOA's new requirements for protestors in the Capitol, and I was livid. Any intentional gathering of 4 or more people inside or 100 outside the building requires a permit 72 hours in advance, plus it's up to the discretion of the Capitol police to decide if protestors owe money for things like police presence and clean-up. (That's right, four people. Like, if my neighbor and I show up, each with our two kids - that would be 6 people total - and a couple of handmade signs, that could technically constitute a protest. They could fine us for not having a permit and charge us for clean-up if one of our kids drops a granola bar wrapper on the floor. Come on.) Walker calls it mere "clarification" of the rules of the permit process, but if you are paying attention at all, it looks more like an attempt to stifle dissent. Should the DOA and Capitol police attempt to enforce these rules, legal questions and challenges will most certainly abound.
Here's the thing about trying to stifle dissent: IT JUST MAKES US LOUDER. Many of us are more determined than ever to show up and express our First Amendment rights. And what better opportunity to do so than the daily noontime Solidarity Sing-along in the Rotunda? Side note: the Solidarity Singers have no intention of applying for one of Walker's permits; singing in the Rotunda is an expression of free speech, plain and simple. I brought Anya with me today and bribed her with a trip to the Children's Museum first and snacks for the Sing-along. We lasted 45 minutes before my voice and her snacks gave out, but not before I merrily joined the throng in singing favorite Christmas tunes with lyrics tweaked for the occasion, like "Holly Jolly Recall," "The Twelve Days of Scott Walker's Term," "O Come All Wisconsin" and "Have Ourselves a Merry Little Recall."
I am not an ethnographer or a musicologist (though I did minor in musicology for my doctorate), but I sincerely hope someone is documenting these Sing-alongs in a proper way. No other aspect of last winter's protests has been as expressive and as enduring.