In Wisconsin’s Capitol, singing vs. First Amendment

Some days, the Wisconsin state Capitol is the place constitutional rights go to die.

Every Wednesday over the last several weeks, protesters of Gov. Scott Walker’s policies have gathered to sing songs deriding the governor. That’s gotten several of the “Solidarity Singers” arrested.

What made the singing illegal? Gov. Walker declared the singers needed a permit to sing and the protesters have refused. Earlier, the Capitol police indicated they’d approve the permit if the singers applied for it.

A federal judge had earlier blocked some of the new rules for the protesters, but left others in place.

Arrests soon followed.

But the dust-up over the gatherings is expanding to anyone who watches from afar at the Capitol.

According to Madison’s Isthmus:

Officer Andrew Hyatt was circling the upper level of the Rotunda on Tuesday, warning observers that the chief of police considered the sing-along an unlawful gathering and therefore spectators were subject to arrest.

“Whether singing or observing, everyone is subject to arrest,” he told one observer. When asked to define the parameters in which observers were subject to arrest, Hyatt said “in this area.”

One of the people threatened with arrest was a state senator who insisted she had the right to watch her constituents. Threatened with arrest, however, she left.