A break in Capitol arrests as Solidarity Sing Along skates on NBC 15's permit

2013-07-31T16:15:00Z A break in Capitol arrests as Solidarity Sing Along skates on NBC 15's permitSTEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times | selbow@madison.com madison.com

Finally, the Solidarity Sing Along had a permit.

However, the permit wasn’t theirs.

After arresting about 30 people on Tuesday, and more than 70 last week, Capitol police and protest singers enjoyed a mutual reprieve from handcuffs and citations Wednesday as about 150 gathered for the noon-time musical protest.

But police, looking relatively relaxed, kicked back and watched the singalong, none of them visibly taking notes or shooting video for evidence used in the past to issue $200 citations after the fact to singers for participating in an unpermitted event.

State Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis confirmed that "no citations will be issued today."

"I think eveyone can use it," singer Brian Standing said of the lull in police enforcement.

Emboldened by a federal judge’s ruling that allows police to require a permit from groups of 20 or more, police have launched another crackdown on the protest singers, who have gathered  in the Capitol rotunda every Monday through Thursday since March, 2011, to skewer Republicans in song. But if another group obtains a permit to use the space, it’s the singers’ practice to move their act outside.

That was almost the case Wednesday, when the news team from NBC 15 was scheduled to gather in the rotunda from noon until 1 p.m., the same time the singers gather

“We were going to kind of gather and just be there for a few minutes, then leave,” says Russ Bruhn, the station’s news director.

But the staffers who were going to gather got too busy chasing news to show up. So the Solidarity Singers gathered in the rotunda and, after verifying that the television station wasn’t going to use the permit, took over the space.

Capitol Police Chief David Erwin has been butting heads with the singers since shortly after he was hired a year ago, launching a crackdown last August that served to inject a dose of energy to an event that was reduced to a handful of protesters in the doldrums over Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory. Since Erwin’s latest crackdown last week, the number of participants has swelled to well over 100 each day.

The group, which maintains that it has no organizational structure or leadership, has refused to obtain a permit, with veteran singers saying that would be like petitioning the government for permission to petition the government.

Bruhn says the news story the permit was obtained for aimed to show viewers what getting a permit was like.

“It was designed to show, even if people didn’t want to go through the permit process, what’s it like, what are they up against,” he says.

Reporter Rachelle Baillon was able to get a permit in less than three hours.

“It seemed like it was a pretty easy process for us to go through,” Bruhn says.

Monday's permitted gathering was to "just show up and finish the process," he says.

And on the fact that NBC 15’s permit apparently led to a temporary truce?

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Bruhn says. “I really don’t have an opinion on that.”

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