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Thursday, February 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 12.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Tensions escalate at Wisconsin Capitol as police commence new round of Solidarity Sing Along arrests
View photos of the arrests
A small group would sing and be escorted off, then another would soon take its place.
Credit:Joe Tarr

State Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) doesn't understand what Gov. Scott Walker is trying to prove by arresting protesters singing songs in the Capitol Rotunda every day at noon.

After several days of warnings starting last week, Capitol Police arrested nearly two-dozen Solidarity Sing Along participants Wednesday, writing them each a $200.50 ticket for the charge of "no permit."

Jauch doesn't get what the administration gains from the crackdown.

"All they're doing is encouraging more people to come here, and for what reason? What aim does this administration get other than they want to impose power on people who have views that are different from him?" said Jauch as he witnessed the arrests. "My God, he's got the majority, he's got the ability to do whatever he wants, he writes the rules. And that's not good enough. Now they want to stifle the views of people who don't agree with him. That's the kind of extremism that should frighten everybody in this country."

A sandwich board propped in the middle of the Rotunda announced, "We Are Declaring This An Unlawful Event" and informed people they faced arrest.

The singers, who have been gathering at noon each weekday since March 11, 2011, did not leave. Perhaps 200 people were on hand, including numerous reporters and others who watched but did not sing. A small group would sing and be escorted off, then another would soon take its place.

Many of those arrested were elderly women, who were put in hand restraints behind their backs and taken to the police headquarters in the basement. Most returned a short time later to give interviews to the media. The Mic 92.1 FM reports that The Devil's Advocates Radio show hosts Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia were "swept up" in the arrests.

The media line at the Department of Administration was not answered, and no one returned a request for comment.

One of those ticketed, Irving Smith, said the police were respectful as they arrested people. The protesters continued to sing "We Shall Overcome" as they were processed.

"Fascism is taking everything in the state Capitol," Smith said. "They took the Legislature, the governor, the Supreme Court, the [Department of Justice]. The only thing left was the constitution, and they took that away today."

Then he shouted to the crowd: "It's the day the music died."

Bill Dunn was also cited. He's been cited twice before, but a prosecutor dismissed both tickets.

"It's a matter of principle," Dunn said of his decision to sing despite the warnings. He said he planned to return tomorrow.

State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) wasn't sure if any of her constituents had been cited. "I imagine I probably have people who come every single day. I don't know where they are right now."

She added: "I'm outraged. This is ridiculous. People have a right to come here and petition their government."

The arrests seemed planned only for the noon hour. Promptly at 1 p.m., police removed the sandwich board warning and left.

Ed Kuharksi, a regular at the sing along, attempted to file a complaint against the police, but he and others were told to leave.

"I wanted to file a complaint that Capitol Police are once again disrupting the primary function of this part of the building, which is citizens at work," Kuharksi said. "All those rules they try to enforce on us should properly be used to manage impact on things like special events and exhibits. That's the original and authentic purpose of those rules."

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