The Wisconsin Capitol rotunda echoed with the voices of Solidarity Sing-Along participants on Friday. They gathered there to defy a new round of arrests by Capitol Police the previous two days, over which a dozen demonstrators were arrested and cited for holding signs inside the rotunda, charged with violating state administrative code.
These arrests followed previous statements by Capitol Police Chief David Erwin, who in a series of media interviews in late August voiced his intentions to alter the department's stance towards demonstrations inside the Capitol and on its grounds, namely by directly enforcing a series of new Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) policies on building use that were issued last December. During the initial response last winter, as well as over the last several weeks, participants in the Sing-Along have construed these changes to be directed towards their actions, a visible daily continuation of the massive protests at the Capitol in early 2011.
The Progressive reported in detail about the arrests on September 5 and 6 -- here, here, and here -- before Capitol Police ceased these actions on Wednesday afternoon. Observers speculated that it was due to language issued by a Dane County judge in a dismissed lawsuit concerning arrests at the Capitol.
Nevertheless, Solidarity Sing-Along participants and other free speech advocates came together inside the Capitol in a show of numbers and defiance against Chief Erwin and the DOA. Well over 100 people ringed the ground, first, and second levels of the rotunda over the lunch hour, bringing the Sing-Along inside from its usual Friday location on the Capitol grounds overlooking State Street.
The Madison office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which has been vociferous in its support of free speech activities in the Capitol rotunda, reported on the gathering, as did several media outlets and others. Their observations and photos of the gathering, as shared via Twitter, are compiled here.