Solidarity singers insist on performing at Capitol without obtaining a permit

CREATED Oct 10, 2012

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  • Inside the State Capitol in Madison. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON- Every weekday at noon at the Capitol, a Solidarity Sing Along is held, but the group organizing the event refuses to get a permit.

The Solidarity Sing Along formed early last year to protest the union-busting policies of Gov. Scott Walker.

Steve Burns, Director of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, argues the group -- which sings labor and civil rights songs -- doesn't need a permit.  He cites Article 1, Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution as his defense.

That article says, "The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged."

Burns says the singers plan on performing every weekday, despite Capitol Police Chief David Erwin's hard-line stance on protesters -- which resulted in 11 arrests in two days in September.

Chief Erwin wants groups that organize at the Capitol to get a permit.  Burns sees that as a power grab.

"The tendency of state is always to take more power to itself," says Burns to Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure."  "And put more restrictions on the rights of people."

Burns sidestepped a question by John, who asked if the group was breaking the law by not obtaining a permit -- which is free to get.

Burns says the group won't get a permit as a matter of principle.  Burns insists the group will continue their right to free speech, and if someone get a ticket for singing -- that person will contest that ticket in front of a judge.

He says while the group wants to express their rights to free speech, they will allow other groups or events to express their rights to free speech in the Capitol.