Capitol police issue 25 no-permit citations to 22 singers
Arrests follow court ruling on assembly inside Capitol
Twenty-five no-permit citations were issued Wednesday to 22 people following a tense standoff between Capitol police and protesters.
Officials said the fine associated with a no-permit citation is $200.50.
One person also received a disorderly conduct citation for spitting on a singer/protester, officials said.
Police have been warning protesters they may be arrested for over a week, but this is the first day they have taken any action against singers inside the Capitol.
“I have determined that your group does not have the required permits. I am declaring this an unlawful event. Please either move outside or disperse immediately. If you do not, each participant is subject to arrest,” said Capitol Police Chief David Irwin in a warning played to the singing crowd.
The arrests follow a ruling by a federal judge in a lawsuit involving the state and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a federal lawsuit in February on behalf of a person who regularly gathers in the Capitol over the noon hour to sing protest songs.
U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a preliminary injunction barring the Walker administration from distinguishing the type of gathering for purposes of issuing a permit. Conley also barred enforcing the permit requirement for gatherings expected to draw 20 or fewer people.
The state put the new regulations in place following protests in 2011, where thousands of people occupied the Capitol to protest a new law restricting state unions.
State officials are defending the arrests. “Judge Conley ruled several weeks ago that the state’s permit process is constitutional," said Wisconsin Department of Administration spokesperson Stephanie Marquis. "The Capitol police are upholding the law to ensure the building can be shared by all citizens who come to the Capitol.”
“This is just plain insanity. Is this really the message we want to send to the rest of the world? That this is Wisconsin? A place where people can’t come and express themselves in their state capitol? That’s bologna,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.
“This is intended for this purpose, for protest, for meeting of the community,” said Margit Moses, who was arrested at the singalong. “What they’re doing is wrong.”
"I've been to Moscow and I felt safer there than I do in our own state capitol," Jauch said. "I'm really bothered with the notion that even being here might constitute some violation."
The singers said they’ve come back day after day to prove their free speech rights.
“I am not regular. I came because I heard there were going to be arrests today and I wanted to be a witness and a participant and see how this ludicrous policy was enacted,” said Adrienne Pagac, a singer.
“I wouldn’t say happy but it’s a matter of principle, so it’s fine,” said Bob Dunn, who was arrested at the singalong.
Watch video recorded at about 12:20 p.m. Wednesday as singers were arrested at the Capitol
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