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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 53.0° F  Overcast
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Wisconsin Capitol Police now steering clear of observers at Solidarity Sing Along
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Cusack said she is frequently at the Capitol during the sing-along, but has never participated.
Credit:Judith Davidoff

Police on Thursday did not appear to be warning observers of the Solidarity Sing Along at the Wisconsin Capitol that they were subject to arrest for watching the noontime gathering.

Isthmus reported Tuesday that Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Middleton), state official Tia Nelson and other observers, including tourists, were told by Capitol Police that day they could be arrested for watching the sing-along. On Wednesday, however, Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, emailed the Associated Press to say that "Observers will not receive citations." According to the AP, Marquis did not explain why police this week were warning observers they were subject to arrest. Marquis did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday but on Thursday reiterated in an email to Isthmus that only those who "actively participate will be cited for not complying with the law."

On Thursday, police officers continued to arrest people singing on the ground floor of the Rotunda, but unlike earlier in the week, were not circling the floor above the gathering warning observers they were also subject to arrest. (Watch a video of Capitol police delivering such warnings.)

Nora Cusack was watching the sing-along from above on Thursday, as on Tuesday. On Thursday she held a sign that read, "Observers will not receive citations. DOA, August 7, 2013." The other side of the sign read, "I am observing only."

Cusack said she is frequently at the Capitol during the sing-along, but has never participated. "And yet I was threatened with arrest Tuesday." She says she was not approached by any police officers Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Eileen VanderVelden sat in her wheelchair off to the side of the ground floor of the Rotunda. She wore a sign that said, "I am an observer. Please do not arrest me." She also covered her mouth with her hand.

VanderVelden said she had open-heart surgery six weeks ago and fears for her health if she were to get arrested. She says some of the arrests have been "rough." "If they do that to me I might be dead."

The noontime sing-along has protested Gov. Scott Walker's policies daily at the Capitol since March 11, 2011. Since a new round of arrests began at the Capitol two weeks ago, more than 100 citations have been issued to protesters by Capitol Police. That is in addition to the more than 200 citations that had already been issued since July 2012 when the Department of Administration began enforcing new permitting requirements for gatherings in state facilities.

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