Jul 30, 201311:04 AMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
We sang in the State Capitol: ‘Got a permit; it was easy’
(page 1 of 2)
On Monday, I organized a singalong at the State Capitol.
You may have heard that a group called the Solidarity Singers has commandeered the Capitol rotunda to bash Gov. Scott Walker every weekday at noon since March of 2011. For two and a half years they have imposed the sad songs of Woody Guthrie and their Walker-hate on innocent youngsters school-bused in from places like New London and Little Suamico.
To get a song in edgewise at this prized noon hour time, in that limited space, one is faced with the prospect of showing up earlier and with more muscle. That’s a way to do things in, maybe, Egypt right now. Instead, the folks who operate the State Capitol building instituted a permit system.
The permit system was instituted in 1979 when some of the Solidarity Singers were still graduate students. The permit system has acquired new relevance given the proclivity of our acquaintances on the political left (for they are our acquaintances!) of taking over the public’s space and calling it their own. You may remember the Siege of the Capitol in February-March 2011. The teachers union shut down schools and sociology majors marched down State Street to overwhelm our Capitol with posters, bodies, overnight camping, the stalking of Republican legislators, sloganeering, chanting, vuvuzelas, and drum circles.
To the chant “Whose Capitol?” they responded “Our Capitol.” Just imagine the response if the Tea Party had done one-tenth of the provocations!
The Solidarity Singers have continued their low-grade guerilla warfare against the Republican state government ever since the Siege. Now that the new sheriff in town, Capitol Police Chief David Erwin, is enforcing the law, our liberal acquaintances are achieving their goal of cause martyrdom. On the cheap, of course.
Acquiring a permit, these self-proclaimed victims of a police state insist, is an onerous impediment to free speech. “The First Amendment is the only permit I need,” read one placard when some of the singers were arrested for violating the rules.
Some of my fellow gun nuts could say that the Second Amendment is all the permit we need. We were still required to pay $50, fill out a lengthy form, submit to a criminal background check, and take classroom instruction before we were issued our concealed-carry permit. Here in Fitzwalkerstan!
By contrast, the process of acquiring a permit to put on a minstrel show in the Capitol rotunda, perhaps the most prized performance art space in the Badger State, is ever so much simpler.
I went online (here) to fill in half of a one-page form. I printed it and — instead of mailing it — walked it in to Capitol Police Friday morning. They like to have 72 hours’ notice. I got word that afternoon that there were no conflicts — like a Red Cross blood drive. But no one else had requested the space, so we were good to go. Permission was granted.
I paid no fee, submitted no topic. In other words, the application was content neutral. It asked for the size of the anticipated group. I wrote 40 and attached a question mark after the numeral. They wanted a contact person and his phone number. That be me and mine. I posted no insurance bond but, if our group went crazy and trashed the place, the authorities wanted someone they could contact. That seems only prudent.
I have made my living off the First Amendment. You want to reserve a park shelter from the city of Madison, you have to do no less.
On Monday, July 29, 2013, different voices borrowed the rotunda for an hour. We were the “I Got a Permit Singers.” We were 70 people — some from as far away as Wausau and Waukesha — who met up mainly through Facebook. Teddy Newcomb brought Twinkies, revived from labor union intransigency. Barb Morgan printed posters and buttons. Isaac Parker volunteered to assemble and print the songbook. Not one dime of Koch money or Bradley Foundation largesse was involved. (It’s not too late to contribute, guys! Send checks payable to David ...)
We sang 10 songs — from the sacred (“Star-Spangled Banner,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “God Bless America,” “Amazing Grace”) to the profane: “Ballad of Jed Clampett” (“a poor Democrat, barely kept his family fed”) and a takeoff on the Woody Guthrie anthem:
This land is my land, it is not your land.
I got a shotgun and you aint’ got none
If you don’t get off, I’ll call the sheriff
This land is private property.
The Permit Singers are not socialists. It was suggested that the left would fixate on the reference to a firearm. We left it in. We’re not going to let the unionistas censor our songs. Let ’em fixate all they want.
Before the event began, Capitol Police asked that they be allowed to handle any trouble. Deal. I instructed the group — half of whom I was meeting for the first time — that if anyone caused trouble, they should raise their hand in a pointing motion.
As I was speaking, a certain Slyming radio personality began shouting at me. I raised my hand in a pointing motion and he was taken away.
Where were the Solidarity Singers during all this? They went outside — it was a beautiful, sunshiny day. They knew better than to provoke a confrontation.
We sang for a half-hour, concluding with a rousing rendition of “On Wisconsin” and a cheer for Scott Walker. At that point, broke out the Twinkies — the nourishing food-like substance of the counterrevolution. People with cameras, tape recorders, and notebooks surrounded me. One fellow asked if some of the We Got a Permit Singers were concealing weapons. Kid you not!
They may have been, I responded, but I can’t say for certain because those weapons were concealed. In any event, they have a permit to do so. A ... Permit.
A young woman stood silently off to the side, her mouth duct-taped shut. I wanted to ask what could her message possibly be? Whose speech is being denied? Now, if she or the Solidarity Singers had applied for a permit and were denied on the basis of the content of their speech — they would have a case.