12 pm, Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda – Solidarity Sing-Along

There’s evidence of recent tensions between protesters and Capitol Police in the Capitol Rotunda, where people begin gathering for the regular Solidarity Sing-Along. Signs arrayed on the second-floor railing tell the story: “Indict Walker.” “Capitol Police, You’ve Lost Your Way.” “Shame.”

The police, who’ve been issuing citations to protesters at the behest of controversial new chief David Erwin, prowl the perimeter of the Rotunda. They are grim-faced and intimidating.

One of the few cheering sights is a long banner that a woman holds over the railing: “PEACE.”

It’s disheartening to witness Wisconsin citizens at war. The songs themselves are often combative, with attacks against anti-union Gov. Scott Walker thrown in. In between numbers, the loud chant of “RE-CALL WAL-KER!” goes up.

A saving grace is the rainbow coalition of people who are sticking up for First Amendment rights in the face of enormous pressure. The hundred-plus protesters are old and young, male and female, black and white. Jim Mueller, a lawyer representing those who’ve been given citations, tells me the protest movement is “a pushback against the 1%.”

On my way out of the Capitol, I glimpse a surprising scene: a protester chatting amiably with a member of the Capitol Police. Who knows — maybe “PEACE” is possible after all.

– Dean Robbins

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