Earth Day turns 45 years old this week. Tia Nelson’s dad is rolling over in his grave.
Every noon hour in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda feels a little bit different.
Today it felt like a prison.
Along with the now commonplace arrests of people for singing out their grievances against state government came individual warnings to tourists and people who work in the building that they were subject to arrest if they stayed in the area. Capitol Police officers were unable to describe what "the area" meant, specifically, but referred the question to the Capitol Police Information Officer.
Additionally, people videotaping and photographing the arrests -- some of them credentialed journalists -- were told that the very act of recording those events made them participants and therefore subject to arrest themselves. The man who took the above video was himself arrested later in the hour.
Two journalists, Nicole Schulte and Leslie Peterson, were actually chased by police officers who tried to grab their cameras. They continued to film the arrests and were not themselves arrested. But Greg Kinsley and Jeremy Ryan were arrested for filming.
Prior to his arrest, Kinsley was told that Capitol Police officers were waiting for authorization to arrest people filming. About ten minutes later they came for him.
Citations issued today made reference to subsection (vm) of the emergency administrative rules that have been used to repress dissent in the capitol for the past three weeks. That section includes any "participant or spectator who fails to withdraw after assembly declared unlawful."
Elected representatives and their staffers who work in the building were also given the warning, but none were arrested.
While the roving bands of latex-glove-clad Capitol Police cast an eerie shadow on the rotunda, people kept on singing for the entire hour. Even as they were being cuffed and frog-marched to the processing station in the basement, people managed to create continuous harmonies of defiance and solidarity.
The crowd kept growing in size throughout the hour as the Capitol Police's efforts seemed to help, not hurt the determination of singers. My mom commented on her way out of the building today, "It's like they were trying to hold back the ocean."
Wednesday's sing along is expected to bring new waves of participants from the Veterans for Peace national convention that kicks off in Madison tomorrow.
Rebecca Kemble reports for The Progressive magazine and website. She also participates when she can in the Solidarity Sing Along.