Solidarity Sing Along participant Jason Huberty: "We've been unintimidated in the Capitol for two years."
The battle for Wisconsin is the centerpiece of two books set to be published this fall. One, by Gov. Scott Walker, will offer his perspective on the Capitol protests and recall election. The other will tell the story of the Solidarity Sing Along as experienced by its participants. Both are titled Unintimidated, and that's not a coincidence.
The book about the sing-along is the latest element of a savvy and increasingly visible response to the Capitol crackdown on protesters who gather without a permit. The message is that the protesters are "unintimidated" in the face of the citations, the arrests and the court appearances -- all that weight of law enforcement being brought down upon their assembly.
"We've been using the term 'unintimidated' among ourselves to describe how we're not intimidated by Walker's regime," says Joseph Skulan, a participant in the Solidarity Sing Along and longtime Capitol protester.
As these things often go now, this political messaging campaign started on Twitter. On Saturday, Aug. 17, the person publishing the account @affinistim started using the hashtag #unintimidated while tweeting about the sing-along, which protests Walker's policies at noon on weekdays. The hashtag had been used only a handful of times previously in the context of Wisconsin politics, but started taking off at this point.
When the Solidarity Sing Along convened in the Rotunda on Monday, Aug. 19, a message that its partisans were "unintimidated" was readily apparent to anybody observing. Jason Huberty, another sing-along participant and protester, has made numerous signs for protests. He created a new set for this day, each emblazoned with a single letter. In a fashion similar to that of the Overpass Light Brigade, a group of sing-along participants hoisted the signs. Together, they read U-N-I-N-T-I-M-I-D-A-T-E-D.
"We've been unintimidated in the Capitol for two years," says Huberty. "There's been a lot of different tactics trying to get people out of the building. We exercise our rights and are not intimidated."
A group-held "Unintimidated" sign has since been a regular feature at the sing-along. The protesters bearing the letters are highly visible, including to police.
"The cops don't seem to like it," says Skulan, "so they have been systematically confiscating the letters, sometimes quite aggressively, and they need to be replaced on a regular basis."
Letters have even been replaced on the fly as signs are confiscated, and now multiple sing-along participants are creating their own.
The governor's office directed queries about his book to his publisher. Friends of Scott Walker also directed a request for comment about the Solidarity Sing Along messaging campaign to the publisher.
Unintimidated: The Book, by and about participants in the Solidarity Sing Along, is being published by Mad Island Communications, a small press owned by Barbara With.
"When the whole uprising took place a couple of years ago, I found my contribution to be best in writing," With says.
She joined with Skulan and several others as a founding member of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative, an online publication covering Wisconsin protests and politics from an anti-Walker perspective.
As the sing-along crackdown returned over the summer, With and others started thinking more about capturing their experiences for posterity. "We've been talking about doing a book for some time, but it just seems now is right," she says.
With says the book will be anchored by an essay introducing the Solidarity Sing Along, though the story will be told primarily through photos. Multiple contributors are selecting images to submit, and With is working on the layout and designing the cover. The book should be about 60 pages and will be published in hardcover.
Proceeds from the sale of Unintimidated: The Book will go to the First Amendment Protection Fund, which is supporting the legal costs of those arrested and cited in association with the crackdown on the sing-along. Pre-orders are now open, and With says it will be sold by Madison-area bookstores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. More information is available at unintimidated.org and a corresponding Facebook page.
Unintimidated by the Solidarity Sing Along is scheduled for release on Oct. 31. Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge, by Scott Walker and Marc Thiessen, is slated for release on Nov. 19.
Presidential campaigns often revolve around a book, a manifesto stating the candidate's ambitions and outlook for America. It's no different for Walker, who is testing the waters for a run in 2016.
The conservative National Review broke the news in March that Walker would be releasing his first book, helping to stoke the chatter over his potential candidacy. Co-author Thiessen is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Washington Post columnist. (A Salon report on the book noted that Thiessen promoted Walker as a potential VP selection in 2012.)
The book's publisher is Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin Group, which has released tomes by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, The Persecution of Sarah Palin by Matthew Continetti, and The War on Christmas by John Gibson. Financial terms of Walker's and Thiessen's book have not been released.
The official description for Unintimidated casts Walker as embattled amid the massive protests triggered by his plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public workers and his subsequent recall election. "He stood his ground despite relentless political and personal attacks with the help of supporters across the country who hailed him for having the courage to drive real change," it reads. The promotional text goes on to applaud Walker's recall win, declare victory for Act 10 and, most importantly, frame the governor's identity for a national audience.
"He also shows what his experiences can teach defenders of liberty across the country about standing up to the special interests that favor the status quo."
With argues that Walker is more of a bully than a defender of freedom.
"I think intimidation has been Walker's key tool that he's used to quash dissent, and the Solidarity Sing Along identified as being unintimidated long before he chose to use it as the title of his book," she says.
"Anybody can write a book about being unintimidated, but Walker's actions don't show that," adds Huberty. "He's clearly intimidated, otherwise why is he applying so much pressure to get people out of the Capitol?"