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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.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Jul 30, 2013 01:10 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dave, I imagine you are one who believes in the wisdom of advice from our mothers. Here is what I do not understand. When one sibling bothers another, Moms will say "just ignore him/her and he/she will stop." The Solidarity Singers were dwindling. They were fading into obscurity. Now, this. This only brings the spotlight back on the group and swells their ranks. And, ultimately, this is only an issue because a few conservative lawmakers and their staffs are rankled by a small group of people singing. Pretty stupid. And, you fell right in. Dave, I would hope for greater from my favorite conservative blogger.

Jul 30, 2013 02:39 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Anonymous Above: - Yes, mother might suggest ignoring the bothersome sibling. But when the spoiled brat did not stop and continued to make life for everybody else unpleasant - corrective action is required. Responsible mothers would put up with only so much before they took action. Failure to do so could result in a incorrigible delinquent child. Maybe that explains the behavior we have been subjected to you the omnipresent protestors. Their mothers failed to teach them how to behave in public and not throw tantrums when they don’t get their way or somebody disagrees with them. Explains a lot.

Jul 30, 2013 05:18 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I observed you and your group from the gallery above and was tempted to shout, "Get a job!" Your GOP activists are not an impressive bunch. Over-60 and over-pampered suburbanites (you know, women with too much jewelry and makeup on for midday casual dress and men defacing the American flag by wearing it as shirts over ample pot bellies), or if they were young, seriously lacking any cool factor. Like, seriously. What does it say when YOU, my dear Blaska, are one of the most stylish? But, enough snark.
The main thing you're wrong about is claiming the Solidarity Singers are denying anyone use of the rotunda. Any group, such as yours, can get a permit and reserve use of the space. The singers are merely there when no one else is. They politely sing elsewhere whenever it's being used by the Red Cross or whoever. So, permits as a way to organize use of the space to avoid conflicts is not an issue. But getting a permit to petition your government? To exercise 1st amendment rights? You think you should get the government's permission to protest the government? So what that it's free? If you have to be permitted, you can be denied. And you know they'd find some pretext eventually. That's why you all want them to just get a permit! There's nothing benevolent about our Governor or his thugs who run the legislature. (Did you know Big Fitz sent around a memo instructing legislative staff to stay away from the rotunda, or they'd be subject to being cited just for OBSERVING the singalong? Seriously. Why do you guys seem to love that authoritarian mindset?)
I'll tell you who I think cares about and defends free speech. And it ain't the Teabagging GOP.

Jul 30, 2013 06:18 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

AnonyBob, thanks for so honestly betraying your true tendencies. We should discount certain folks' free speech because they are "seriously lacking any cool factor," are not stylish, are overweight, are too old for your liking, etc.? "Wal-Mart-y patriotism? Harumph! How quaint!"

(Bonus and mostly irrelevant comment: Your oh-so-cool prez is doing a bang-up job on the economy and foreign policy, BTW. Abiding by the Constitution must be totally out of style these days.)

So, yeah, we should all get behind using a person's "cool factor" to determine whether their voice should be valued or whether they'd be a good public servant.

Bravo, AnonyBob, Bravo. Keep spewing.


Jul 30, 2013 06:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Are you serious? I saw the solidarity singers in person on a random Tuesday in May. Aside from being drama queens, I'd guess the average age to be 65. The smell! Lord have mercy! And "cool factor", LOL!

Please tell us about your protests for free speech in other public spaces? Tell us how you support all voices opposed to "hate speech" rules on the UW campus. Tell us about the letters you wrote to Mayor Soglin opposing his attempt to end conservative free speech with his ridiculous proposition to require that private companies name their political allies. Tell us about the protests you made to the IRS for harassing conservative groups.

Jul 31, 2013 05:07 am
 Posted by  45acp


I was the guy with the American Flag shirt. It is actually a Declaration of Independence shirt with the image of an American Flag draped over it. I do have a bit of a "pot belly" but will have yu know it is 100% paid for by 30 years of work, not one day of it in a union and not one dollar of it from social welfare. Actually my pot belly isn't that bad, but I wear my shirts over size to be able to conceal my sidearm.

Jul 31, 2013 07:24 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

You guys are hilarious! "Yeah, but Obama..." "Dirty hippies..." (I'm paraphrasing "The smell!") "I'm proud I worked my whole life for lower wages and benefits, without a say in my working conditions, and now I carry a gun everywhere."
Irony is lost on those without critical thinking skills. You guys need to get out of your echo chamber.

Jul 31, 2013 08:51 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I was there as a spectator, but not of the same political flavor as those singing in the rotunda. Prior to the singing one individual made sure as many people around could hear him expound on his distaste for the Solidarity Singers to whomever was in earshot. He described them in the most unflattering terms and used colorful language to drive his point home. But that was his right as it was his permitted gathering. What I HAD DIFICULTY UNDRSTANDING WAS WHY THE POLICE DEMANDED THAT A SIGN THAT ONLY READ " ARTICAL 1 Section 4" would warrant an arrest for disorderly conduct. It in no way disrupted the singing but I suppose could have provoked a response that could have led to a confrontation. is this still America when signs expressing dissent can no longer be held? Ironically the same gentleman who was previously lambasting the character of the Solidarity Singers then went outside to observe their singing. Again that's his right but why would you want attend something that you so despise. Why don't we all just tolerate one another and dispense with the name calling and character assassination and let things play themselves out. Call off the police arrests, keep the cuffs off octogenarians and let civil disobedience run it's course. Dissent from day one has made AMERICA unique in the world and has let democracy be our trademark.

Jul 31, 2013 09:28 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Thank God for David B and well done 45acp.

AnonyBob, if you dont like your 'working conditions' (provided you dont consider yelling like a lunatic every day for 2 years at the Capital a job), and think your wage isnt in line with the work you do, guess can quit and get a DIFFERENT job (shocking revelation). Thats the wonderful reality of Capitalism and freedom. Becoming locked into a profession, as you seem to pity yourself as being, is at the core of socialism and communism, the very thing every veteran in this country has paid a steep price to fight against. If you had some pride in yourself and your work and your skills are acutally usefull to somebody, you sure wouldnt need to pay a union boss to negoitate anything for you.

- MadisonTaxPayer

Jul 31, 2013 01:17 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

What is it with you guys and commies under every rock? Who said, or even implied, I felt locked in my profession and pitied myself? Working conditions? I'm kinda tired of listening to the singers (and Blaska's group was sure no treat), but I'm glad they do it. I am grateful every day for good benefits and a secure future pension. I'm not in a union, but would be happily. They're why I have it so good, just like retired public employee David Blaska. You should ask why you don't have it as good. (And please, do NOT claim the taxpayers are paying my pension. They won't be, any more than your employer or clients will be paying your retirement if you have a crappy 401k. That money in the retirment system is MY money, my compensation for working.) Capitalism has its efficiencies, but it also has its brutal sides. Wall St. and people like the Koch bros are who it truly benefits. People like us? Not so much. Ever read "What's the Matter With Kansas?" No, of course not. You should educate yourself.
And hey, I'm a Madison taxpayer, too!

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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