About 50 people responded to a call by Isthmus blogger David Blaska to hold a "Conservative Sing Along" in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday at noon.
Blaska obtained a permit from Capitol Police for his group of "Blaska Bloggers" to sing for 30 minutes, after writing about his objection to the presence of the Solidarity Sing Along, a group that has gathered at the Capitol (without a permit) to sing over the noon hour every weekday since February.
Instead of clashing over whose voices would fill the Rotunda, though, the Solidarity Sing Along moved their sing-along to the steps on the State Street side of the Capitol. More than 150 people showed up to join the group, nearly a week after one of its members was punched in the face by a man from Green Bay.
Several Solidarity Sing Along organizers stood with signs directing participants outside before the Conservative Sing Along began.
"We don't want any confrontation," said Anica Bausch, one of the members holding a sign.
The Conservative Sing-Along began with a rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," while several participants waved American flags and held "Don't Tread On Me" signs. A "Walker for Governor" sign rested against a wall, and one singer held a bumper sticker that read, "Prosser won. Get over it."
The tunes ranged from patriotic to pop culture: "America the Beautiful," "On, Wisconsin!" and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance were sprinkled throughout a set that also included the themes from The Flintstones, Gilligan's Island and Green Acres.
A member of the Solidarity Sing Along described the difference between the two groups: "They're a little bit country. We're a little bit rock 'n' roll."
The media presence in the Rotunda was strong, with an abundance of voice recorders and cameras documenting the event. Todd Osborne, a computer programmer who has lived in Wisconsin for 12 years and describes himself as a "tea party conservative," heard about the Conservative Sing Along through local tea party groups. He said quite of a few of the participants in the sing-along were members of We the People of the Republic, a Dane County-based organization.
Osborne sported a sign that read, "Dear Gov. Walker, Thank You! Sincerely, A Middle/Working Class Family Man and Proud High Taxpaying Wisconsinite." He objects to criticisms that call Walker's budget repair bill an attack on the middle class, and feels that his personal property taxes have increased too much over the 12 years he's lived in the state.
"Today went very, very well," Osborne said. "The pro-union, anti-Walker people were very nice and respectful, and we appreciate that."
Osborne said he has participated in other events, including the Tax Day rally in April, that were much more tense than the competing sing-alongs. He thought the peace between the two groups today might indicate a "return to civility."