Nora Cusack thought she was making it clear she was not participating in the Solidarity Sing Along at the Wisconsin Capitol on Thursday. The Madison resident held a sign that read on one side, "I am observing only," and on the other, "Observers will not receive citations -- DOA, August 7, 2013." She says she watched the action below her from the first-floor balcony and didn't sing, hum or even tap her foot.
Yet Cusack says she was approached by four or five Capitol police officers, who told her she had been identified as participating in an unlawful event. She told the officers she was not participating, but she was arrested nevertheless. Her hands were cuffed behind her back, and she was brought to the basement cafeteria for processing.
Cusack says one officer added her personal information to a partially completed ticket that listed the violation as "unlawful assembly." But another officer directed that a second violation -- "Bring signs supported by standards or sticks" -- be added. Cusack noted that her hand-held sign was not supported by a stick or standard but was told it was a violation of administrative code to carry a sign.
"Apparently I am the standard," she says.
Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, told the Associated Press on Aug. 7 that "Observers will not receive citations." Her comments came the day after Isthmus reported that Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Middleton), state official Tia Nelson, tourists and other observers were threatened with arrest for observing the sing-along on Aug. 6. On Aug. 8, Cusack went to the Rotunda with the same sign she held Thursday, declaring she was observing only. She was not arrested that day.
A voice mail message said Marquis was out of the office, and no one returned a call for comment left on the DOA media line.