Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Wisconsin Capitol Police continue to harass the Solidarity Singers and have begun sending citations to participants through certified mail. More than 30 people have been given over 80 citations to date.
Singers remain undeterred, with the crack down inspiring them to greater heights of creativity. Check out my photo essay "Fightin' Bob La Follette Must be Rolling in His Grave" in the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative about the Halloween Sing Along for a sense of the spirit and energy of the group. On Monday Jason Huberty unfurled his 5' x 7' poster of Scott Walker as Gepetto pulling the strings of Capitol Police Chief David Erwin as Pinocchio.
Police harassment continues to escalate with the evolution in tactics from handcuffing and physically arresting people for alleged violations of the administrative code to hand-delivering tickets at people's homes and places of work, to the current practice of mailing out citations.
No warnings are given to people about their allegedly unruly behavior as it is happening, and recipients of tickets seem to be selected at random by the police. It is unclear whether or not certified mail constitutes legal service of a document. The practice is likely to be challenged in court.
Court dates for the recipients of the first round of tickets issued in September are scheduled for next month. All cases will be prosecuted by the state Department of Justice rather than the Dane County District Attorney. Defendants have all requested jury trials.
At Monday's event -- the 499th Sing Along over the past 19 months -- Steve Gotcher railed against the crackdown. He was one of the people taken away in handcuffs for displaying text from the Wisconsin constitution in September, and last week received a ticket by certified mail.
Gotcher warned the group of roughly 100 singers in attendance that they shouldn't be surprised to find a ticket waiting for them when they got home. He refuses to be intimidated, however, and urged others to keep coming back and to bring their friends.
Brian Standing, a regular Sing Along participant, has yet to receive a ticket despite repeated announcements to the group and to police of his name and address. On Monday he took to the rotunda and asked, "Do you think it is a good use of taxpayer money to have 12 Capitol Police officers monitoring the Sing Along?" He added, "If you don't, contact the Department of Administration and let them know. We're going to keep showing up here until the teacher to student ratio in our public schools equals the police officer to singer ratio at the Sing Along!"
Rebecca Kemble reports for The Progressive magazine and website. She also participates when she can in the Solidarity Sing Along.
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