By Rebecca Kemble on July 31, 2013

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.

Free speech in Wisconsin
Photo by Rebecca Kemble.

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.

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech
Photo by Rebecca Kemble.

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 www.solidaritysingalong.org.

Lawfully assembled to petition my government
Photo by Rebecca Kemble.

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

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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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