How an NBC Affiliate Flubbed the Madison Sing Along Story

A local NBC affiliate made its own news today as it applied for and received a permit for a singing event at noon in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda. According to their report, the station did it to see how easy or difficult it was to obtain one. Station employees applied in the morning and were granted the permit in less than three hours.

The story on their website says, "Russell Bruhn, news director of WMTV, says the NBC station got the permit for Wednesday to see how the process worked. He says the station got the permit for its own usage and not anyone else's."

This is yet another example of how the mainstream media keeps asking the wrong questions and getting the story wrong. Participants in the Solidarity Sing Along do not apply for a permit not because they think it’s difficult to do so, but rather because they strongly believe it is unnecessary to do so.

Photo by Rebecca Kemble
<i>Photo by Rebecca Kemble</i>

The event, which has been ongoing every week day at noon in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda since March 11, 2011, is an expression of political speech rendered in signs and song. Participants point out that if you have to ask permission from the government to express dissent against the government, then you don’t really have the right to dissent.

Several Sing Along participants called the TV station to determine whether or not they would be utilizing the permit. That’s when people found out that WMTV didn't actually have an event planned; they just wanted to see how the process worked.

That they could have applied for a permit for any other hour of the day made some participants in the Sing Along wonder whether or not WMTV was aiding and abetting the Department of Administration in its efforts to suppress free speech, since the Sing Along has customarily moved outdoors when there is a permitted event scheduled for the noon hour.

Photo by Rebecca Kemble
<i>Photo by Rebecca Kemble</i>

Several dozen singers went outside to sing while several dozen more remained in the rotunda after being notified that there was no actual event taking place.

Near the end of the hour the outdoor singers marched inside to join their indoor comrades, singing “Hold the Fort.”

The Capitol Police made no arrests. It appeared as if they weren’t prepared to do so since no law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions were evident in the capitol today, unlike on the days where mass arrests have taken place when DNR game wardens, state troopers and Department of Justice Criminal Investigation cops were on hand to help process arrestees.

Capitol Police Lieutenant Bob Sloey has been directing the recent arrests. I asked him if the Capitol Police were considering the Sing Along a permitted event today and therefore not making any arrests. He told me, “There is a permit for singing in the rotunda at noon today.”

When I inquired whether it was a member of the group currently singing who pulled the permit, Lt. Sloey said, “I have no comment. But we did not receive a complaint from the permit holder.”

“So are your administrative rule enforcement activities complaint-driven?” I asked him.

“That’s all I’m saying,” was his reply.

The court date for those arrested on the first day of the crackdown last week is scheduled for Friday, August 9. If Scott Walker’s Department of Administration follows the pattern of behavior set last year after hundreds of citations for violating the administrative code were thrown out of court, they are likely to back off on making further arrests if the current cases are dismissed.

People interested in supporting those who have been arrested in this latest crackdown can contribute to their legal defense fund at

Photo by Rebecca Kemble
<i>Photo by Rebecca Kemble</i>

Rebecca Kemble reports for The Progressive magazine and website. She also participates when she can in the Solidarity Sing Along.