By Rebecca Kemble on February 06, 2014

Over 100 people showed up to the Solidarity Sing Along in the Wisconsin Capitol on Thursday to celebrate a ruling by Dane County Judge John Markson that declared Governor Scott Walker’s plot to have his critics arrested “unconstitutional on its face.”

Walker triggered a torrent of over 400 citations with an administrative rule issued last summer that banned organized groups from demonstrating in the Capitol without prior authorization.

The vast majority of those arrested were carried away by Capitol police for singing songs that antagonize Republicans and call out their abuses of power. Walker later rewarded his top enforcers on the Capitol police force with double-digit raises.

In his ruling Thursday, Judge Markson concluded that Walker's rule was not “narrowly tailored to the legitimate government interests it seeks to promote,” making it “unconstitutional on its face.”

The 28-page decision also takes Walker’s Department of Justice to task for multiple procedural inconsistencies, including filing late briefs with the court and arguing contradictory points in different cases before the same judge.

In a ruling on a related case also released Thursday, Judge Markson further admonished Walker’s prosecutors for changing the rule under which defendants were cited after the fact.

In State of Wisconsin vs. John B. Bell, Markson wrote: “I cannot ignore any party - much less the State's - altering a document filed with the court so that it is different from the one actually served upon the other party. That this is wrong requires no explanation.”

“How this could happen is perplexing at best,” the judge concluded.

The Crute ruling also caused charges to be dismissed in 29 different cases. Among them were three tickets given to this reporter’s 86-year-old father.

Markson’s decision comes at a bad time for the Walker Administration, following a series of losses in court.

In one major setback for Walker, Dane County Judge Peter Anderson ordered the Administration to conduct a cost-benefit study on the merits of arresting people for singing without a permit.

Another case, against Nora Cusack -- a woman who was arrested not for singing, but for holding a sign -- was also dismissed recently. Cusack, like many who faced arrest during the crackdown, was on hand Thursday to celebrate the judge's ruling.

Similarly, Dane County’s district attorney also refused to prosecute Matthew Rothschild, publisher and senior editor of The Progressive, for taking a photo of three elderly women who were being arrested -- an act of journalism that Walker’s enforcers called “obstruction.”

It is not yet clear whether Markson's decision will set a precedent for the 300+ outstanding cases, which are currently before 12 other Dane County judges.

At a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Michael Crute of “Devil’s Advocates Radio,” whose charge was dropped, urged the state to give up on the other outstanding charges.

“I don’t have a lot of hope for the Walker Administration, but I would ask that he consider declaring defeat magnanimously and moving on and dismissing the charges, because this is a monumental waste of human resources and treasury of the taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin,” he said.

Joining him, State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) called Walker's crackdown on the singers "harassment" and demanded that Walker’s prosecutors “stop hauling people to court when they are just exercising their constitutional rights.”

“The process by which people were cited was wrong and was so egregious that there should be sanctions,” she added.

Dominic Salvia, Crute’s co-host, echoed the sentiment. “Our tea party, small government governor used the force of the state to come down on people he disagrees with,” he said.

Salvia, a self-proclaimed small government libertarian, added that Walker’s divide-and-conquer strategy and crackdown on free speech seems to have the unintended effect of bringing people together from across the political spectrum. The unconstitutional actions of those who carried out that crackdown are, according to Salvia, “going to hound them politically for the rest of their lives.”

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Featured photo: Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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