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Jul 26, 201310:33 AMLeft Business Brain

with Tom Breuer

Hey, Solidarity Singers: Form a multibillion-dollar transnational corporation if you want free speech

(page 1 of 2)

So let me get this straight. In Scott Walker’s and SCOTUS’ America, corporations are people, unlimited campaign cash is speech, singing grandmas are scofflaws, and politicians who balance their budgets on the backs of kindergarten teachers but recoil like drugged lab monkeys at the grisly opening strains of “Blowin’ in the Wind” are praised for their toughness and resolve.

For the third day in a row on Friday, the duly appointed gendarmes of the Capitol arrested a gaggle of terrorists-in-training for singing without a license. While they’re at it, they might as well pop on over to the governor’s office and arrest Walker for governing without a brain.

This is tone deaf beyond belief, and I really have to question (even more than usual) Walker’s judgment. Unless his real intent is to firm up support among his nutty conservative base in advance of a presidential run by showing that he’s not afraid to crack some hippie octogenarian skull (metaphorically, of course), it’s hard to make sense of this one. (For a more personal take on this, read Rebecca Kemble’s excellent column in The Progressive recounting how her 80- and 85-year-old parents — one presumably a Crip and the other a Blood, but able to sing in joyous harmony nonetheless — were caught up in the first day’s dragnet.)

Yes, on Wednesday, the governor’s war on rhyme began as the Capitol Police arrested 22 wayward warblers. On Thursday, they nabbed another 27 and on Friday more than a dozen. Before you know it, they’ll have a lifetime supply of Journey lead singers in custody, but they’ll be no closer to making a coherent point.

Now, it’s undeniably true that there are recognized limits on free speech. You can’t slander people, you can’t scream obscenities at young children, you can’t yell “Scott Walker” at a crowded WEAC convention, etc. And the singers are singing without a permit, after all. But they’ve been at it for two years, and the wheels of government just kept churning along.

The reason it’s suddenly a problem? The only one I can think of is that Scott Walker has thin skin and his former personal bodyguard David Erwin, who now serves as chief of the Capitol Police, is doing his bidding.

A recent court order gives the state authority to require a permit for groups of 20 or more assembling in the Capitol. But as the ACLU’s Larry Dupuis told The Wisconsin State Journal, the state is in no way required to crack down on those groups. The Capitol Police could simply abide the raucous folk tunes and go about their business as they have for the last 700 days or so, and no elderly rabble-rousers would need to get caught up in the system. “It’s their choice to do that,” said Dupuis.

And what a choice it is.

But the Solidarity Singers do have options. They can form a multibillion-dollar transnational corporation and use a portion of their hefty profits to buy elections on behalf of candidates who are likely to bend to their will. You know, like a normal American.


Old to new | New to old
Jul 29, 2013 10:13 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Another option: They could obtain a permit. But that would be too simple and wouldn't help them draw the attention they are seeking.

Jul 29, 2013 11:05 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

So, Anonymous, you think people protesting the government should get the permission of that government? Their speech is about as political as speech gets (and through light-hearted songs). If they have to get "permitted," the next step will be them getting "denied." The Walker administration is anything but benevolent. As annoying as I find the singing after 2+ years (I work in the building), they are defending our constitutional rights. It IS about free speech and petitioning our government; concepts you'd think conservatives could grasp.

PS: I just witnessed the Blaska organized "We Got a Permit" singalong. Boy, was that underwhelming. GOP activists are even stranger looking than Dem activists. Dave was surrounded by quite the scrum of reporters, so I'm sure he'll be crowing. Talk about attention seeking!

Jul 29, 2013 05:13 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I think the judge came up with 20 as a "qualifying" number so that people's individual rights to protest are protected, while at the same time, holding a group accountable if they have a large enough gathering. If they are denied, than there is something to crow about.

Jul 30, 2013 04:16 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

You need a permit from the government to protest the government? Only totalitarian daddy staters would think that's a good idea.

Jul 30, 2013 01:53 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Try to organize a sing along at the United States Capitol and see how far you get. Nancy Pelosi would have the Capitol Police put you in handcuffs in a D.C. second.

By the way, members of corporations that want to chant, sing, beat on drums or play the vuvuzela in the Madison Capitol need a permit to engage in such activity. Corporations (a collection of people like unions or other groups) still must follow the law. Your headline is claptrap.

Jul 30, 2013 03:23 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I read Blaska's blog on this and yours, Tom. While you can spin this as a denial of "free speech", it really is a requirement to get a permit to assemble more than 20 people. It sounds like you need more than 19 people to make your point (or sound good), so just take the time to get a permit everyday. Blaska comes off as condescending...you come off as someone who deserves condescension. Madison deserves real change agents, not just people, who only have the energy to sing...and it's a shame that you would use an elderly couple in this way. Did they know they were breaking the law before they joined your sing-a-long? Shame on you if they did not!

Jul 31, 2013 10:55 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Once a location has become a public forum by tradition (such as the Wisconsin State Capitol) the government may not arbitrarily remove that status. The US Capitol is a nonpublic forum although the grounds around it are a public forum.

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About This Blog

Tom Breuer, IB Web editor, has spent much of his life trying to explain his leftward leanings. As the sixth of seven children from a predominantly Republican family, he's used to being surrounded and ganged up on, so he welcomes comments from conservatives. He is the co-author of three political humor books, including Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly. Find him on Twitter .



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