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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 38.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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"I did not want this to be the Solidarity Arrest Along"
ACLU plaintiff explains settlement with state over Capitol access

It's been an emotional time for Michael Kissick since he signed a settlement with the Department of Administration over Capitol access.

"I've been under a lot of stress because there are some people in the sing-along who think I shouldn't have made any bargain," says Kissick, an assistant professor at UW-Madison.

The ACLU of Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Kissick, charging that the DOA's requirement that groups of four or more obtain a permit to gather at the Capitol violated the First Amendment. Kissick, who had been a regular at the noontime Solidarity Sing Along, stopped attending the daily protest against Gov. Scott Walker's policies to avoid being ticketed for not having a permit.

Under Kissick's settlement, groups like the Solidarity Sing Along no longer need a permit to gather at the Capitol. They can alternatively notify the DOA by phone, email, in person or via a form supplied by the state.

Kissick says some of his fellow participants feel they should not have to give any notice to gather in the Capitol to exercise their right to free speech. They also are not happy that the threshold for notification or a permit was set at 12 participants.

Kissick says he understands their concerns and is not happy himself that the number is 12. But he thinks giving notification to the DOA is reasonable.

"If you're going to give a party, you might notify your neighbors," says Kissick. "You're not asking their permission. But if something comes up, they might need to contact me."

Kissick is upset, however, at the State Capitol Advance Notification form posted on the Capitol Police website. He says it asks for information that is not required under the terms of the settlement, including a name.

"You can anonymously notify, and then you can give a contact," he says. The form also doesn't communicate that groups can simply email notification to the DOA or notify in person.

Kissick says his ACLU lawyers are in discussion with the DOA about these details now.

DOA spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis disagrees with Kissick's distinction between providing contact information and a name. Pointing to the agreement clause that spells out that notification requires "contact information for one(1) or more people," Marquis asks, "If we do not know who the person is, how do we know they gave notice?"

Kissick says his overarching goal has always been to make sure the sing-along could continue as the joyous protest it was before the citations began.

"In the end, I did not want this to be the Solidarity Arrest Along."

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