A Triumph For Singing In The Public Interest

It’s not climate-related news, but it’s cheering me up a bit:

In the lovely state of Wisconsin, a little good news, as the Solidarity Singers are declared legal and constitutional. The administration of Republican governor Scott Walker has been ticketing the good people who gather every day in the State Capitol to sing in protest of their regressive policies. The reasons given: lack of a proper permit for assembly — never mind that the state’s constitution guarantees its citizens unfettered access to the capitol building.

Now 29 of those tickets have been dismissed by Judge John Markson:

In one of two written rulings issued Wednesday, Markson said he agreed with defendant Michael W. Crute, who argued that the state’s permit requirement “violates the First Amendment because it applies, on its face, to very small groups.”

“The rule Mr. Crute is charged with violating is not narrowly tailored to the legitimate governmental interests it seeks to promote,” Markson concluded. “It is not a valid time, place, and manner requirement. It is unconstitutional on its face. The citation must be, and it hereby is, dismissed.”

Markson is the first Dane County judge to dismiss a Capitol protest ticket on constitutional grounds. Before Markson’s ruling Wednesday, there were approximately 400 of these cases pending before Dane County judges.

Some analysts are predicting that this ruling will be applied to all current cases, thereby lightening the load for Wisconsin’s overworked judiciary.

In 2011 the Walker administration promulgated new policies requiring permits for gatherings of 100 or more people outside the Capitol, and for groups of four or more people inside the building. Furthermore, permit applications would need to be submitted 3 days in advance, with violators subject to arrest. Recognizing the absolutely unconstitutional nature of these regulations, the Singers decided to defy them:

The organizer and conductor of the Solidarity Sing-Along does not intend to apply for a permit to continue the group’s noontime assemblies at the Wisconsin Capitol when new rules for access to state buildings kick in Friday, December 16. Instead, participants are going to test the new policy and the Capitol Police’s willingness to enforce it by holding its gatherings usually outside the Capitol that Friday, and then inside the Rotunda on Monday, December 19.

Solidarity Sing-Along conductor R. Chris Reeder says normal attendance is between 50 to 150 singers, depending on the day. But he is hoping for a larger crowd on Friday and Monday. A Facebook listing for the event lists nearly 200 people as planning on attending, as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We are asking for increased attendance, for anyone to sign up to support free speech,” Reeder says. “It’ll be just another noontime protest but with new policies that may impede our protest, our constitutionally protected right to protest, our right to petition our government.”

In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, even watching the singers can get you a trip to the hoosegow:

Here’s Arlo Guthrie, paying them a visit in 2011:

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