“The key to success is not how many people we put in, but how many we keep from coming back."
Despite Gov. Scott Walker’s edict that no more than three people can gather inside the capitol for a demonstration without a permit, about 1,000 people joined the Solidarity Sing-along at noon on Monday.
The sing-along, which has been occurring, Monday through Friday, for the past ten months, had its largest crowd since the earliest days of anti-Walker protests.
Signs dangled from the balconies (a practice also prohibited by Walker’s edict). One said: “This is a test of the Emergency Free Speech system.”
Cindy Johnson held a sign that said: “We don’t need a permit to speak in our own house.” She’s in her late forties and lives in Mt. Horeb, a nearby town. “I’m here about half the time,” she says. “I’m just saying no, no, no” to all of Walker’s policies. “There are more of us than them,” she adds, “and we’ve got the power.”
Gracie Gardner, 20, a student at Lawrence University in Appleton, two hours away, also came to Madison for the protest. “I’m studying singing, and I heard they needed reinforcements,” she said. “This is our right.” She held a sign that said, in the face of tyrants, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”
The Solidarity Singers sang from their “Holiday Songbook,” with lyrics revised to fit the protests.
For instance, the crowd sang a rousing version of “Recall Now” to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” with the chorus:
“Oh, Recall Now, Recall Now,
Send him on his way,
Oh, how loud will be those yells,
When Scotty’s gone away.”
Or, another crowd favorite, “Make Him Go,” sung to the tune of “Let It Snow,” with the first stanza:
“Oh, the weather outside is frightful
to recall would be delightful,
As our numbers continue to grow,
Make him go, make him go, make him go!”
Or, “Cast Your Vote,” sung to the tune of “Silver Bells,” with this chorus:
“Cast your vote!
It’s recall time in Wisconsin.
Soon it will be recall day.”
In between songs, you could hear shouts of “Recall Walker” echoing through the capitol.
As is customary, the sing-along ended with a powerful rendition of “Solidarity Forever.”
There were only a handful of police officers present.
“We’re just going to be monitoring the protests,” said Mitch Steingraeber, 51, a Wisconsin capitol police officer. “We have no enforcement strategy.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Free Speech Victory in Madison!"
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter