The Capitol Police again warned Solidarity Sing Along participants that they face arrest if they continue to gather without a permit in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda, as they have been doing each weekday at noon since March 11, 2011.
The police have been warning the group each day since Thursday, July 11 that they could be arrested. The warnings come in the wake of a July 8 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Conley that the Capitol Police's rule requiring a permit for any gathering of four or more people is unconstitutional. Conley ruled that the police could only require a permit for groups larger than 20. The Wisconsin Department of Administration subsequently held a public hearing about the rules on Friday, July 12.
The sing-along on Thursday, July 18 clearly exceeded that number, with at least 60 people participating.
Halfway through the hour-long assembly, police announced over a loudspeaker: "The Capitol Police has determined that your group is larger than 21, which requires a permit. We are declaring this an unlawful event. Please move your group outside or disperse immediately. If you do not, the entire group is subject to arrest."
Nevertheless, the police took no further action and did not arrest anyone. The sing-along continued without further interruptions from the police.
Listen to a recording of the warning.
Some protesters didn't take the police warning well. Kathy Liska says she intends to file a complaint against the officers.
"I was just threatened with being arrested," Liska says. "I want to file a written complaint. Any day he chooses to threaten me, I'm going to file a written complaint."
Many protesters were undeterred by the warning. "This is my 503rd sing-along at noon hour," says Irving Smith. "From the very beginning, I thought they were going to arrest us, and they haven't yet."
He adds: "The constitution is strong. If they touch us or do anything to us, they're breaking the law."
Chris McDonough expects to eventually get ticketed for going to the sing-along. She says the police have been scrutinizing the protesters since the winter, photographing them in order to identify regular participants.
Since Republican legislators and the governor have ignored their concerns, McDonough says she has no choice but to keep returning.
"This building was designed for the people to come in here," she says. "If we can't come in here and speak, I don't know where we're going to be able to come in and speak."
McDonough adds: "What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to raise our voices, if not here?"