The world lost a great voice for peace and justice Monday, but Pete Seeger's legacy lives on in Madison.
The great folk singer/songwriter passed away at age 94, but every time the singers (and instrumentalists on Fridays) who participate in the Solidarity Sing Along gather at the Capitol to sing "If I Had a Hammer" and "Which Side Are You On” -- which they've done more than 750 times since the heady days of 100,000 protesters surrounding the Wisconsin Capitol -- Pete will live on.
The Sing Along uses the power of music to protest Governor Scott Walker's anti-union agenda. While the world was watching the Capitol uprising on TV and social media, the Capitol Police mostly ignored the singers. But then, after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was failed to defeat Walker in the 2012 recall election, the numbers of singing protesters dwindled. Then the guard changed with the Capitol Police, and a crackdown began. Officer handed out more than 250 citations between July and September last year. Individuals have been arrested for singing or -- like Matt Rothschild, senior editor of The Progressive -- for reporting on the showdown itself.
The arrests have ceased, but the legal battles over the hundreds of citations issued are just getting started. The singers have even filed their own complaints, 15,000 of them, against the Capitol Police for the arrests.
Sing Along stalwart Daithi "The Fidder" Wolfe has been arrested or ticketed four times in the past 18 months, including once on Pete Seeger's birthday last May 3. "Pete wanted everyone to sing along, to feel included and valued and to have hope and inspiration that we could all work together to make the world a better place," says Wolfe. "And what better more joyous, inclusive and powerful way than through music?"
Wolfe noted that on Tuesday, Jan. 28, the Sing Along added "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Abiyoyo," and "Turn, Turn, Turn" to the Seeger songs already in their repertoire.
Something tells me Pete would be proud.