Arrests of protesters continued for the third straight day Friday at the state Capitol, suggesting a renewed effort by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to silence the ad-hoc “Solidarity Sing Along” group is doing little to stop the daily event.
A Friday arrest count was not immediately available but the number of people handcuffed and taken away by Capitol Police officers over the lunch hour appeared to be less than the roughly 25 people arrested on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Among those arrested was the Rev. Carter Dary, a retired Lutheran minister.
Dary and Philip Gerboc, a friar with the Great Lakes Region of the Old Catholic Church, kicked off the singalong Friday by getting down on their knees and saying a prayer. The two took turns denouncing the actions of the administration.
“I urge people of all denominations, of all faiths, to step forward and take a stand,” Gerboc told the crowd of more than 100 assembled in the rotunda. “What I saw on TV the last two days (Wednesday, Thursday) is nothing more than I learned about Nazi Germany. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want anybody in the state of Wisconsin to take it anymore.”
While the number of arrests appears to have decreased Friday, the crowd of people gathering to sing hasn't thinned.
In fact, the group of singers has continued to grow since the Capitol Police announced last week they would begin enforcing a new state policy approved by Walker that requires a permit for groups of 20 or more to assemble in the Capitol.
The administration had originally written the policy to require a permit for groups of four or more, but U.S. Federal Court Judge William Conley ruled earlier this month the policy violated free speech and was therefore unconstitutional.
The solidarity singers continue to refuse to obtain a free permit from the state Department of Administration on the grounds the group is a collection of individuals that has no leader.
A permit also requires a headcount of those who will attend and members of the group say that would be impossible, as no one keeps track of that information or knows from day to day who will attend.
The Solidarity Sing Along typically occurs inside the Capitol each Monday through Thursday and outside, on the Capitol Square near State Street, each Friday.
Capitol Police posted a sign board in the middle of the rotunda Friday that a wedding was scheduled for noon. Many still sang inside, but dozens of singers, including many daily participants, gathered outside, some playing instruments.
“This should prove to them this is not a cohesive group,” said Madison resident Jonathan Rosenblum, who was singing and playing the fiddle outside.
Bill Dixon, a retired Madison attorney, was present at the demonstration Thursday. In an interview from his home Friday, Dixon said he’s attended the singalong about a dozen times over the past two years, which by no means puts him among the group of regulars.
Dixon said the actions of the administration and Capitol Police is a "display of arrogance that is contrary to Wisconsin’s principles and traditions."
He said as someone who took an oath more than 40 years ago to defend the Wisconsin Constitution, he felt people’s rights were being trampled.
"I think they are trying to send a message that they have dictatorial control over the Capitol," Dixon said. "It is a deplorable display of policing. When they do that stuff, I think people of goodwill will show up to resist it."