Bigger Crowds, More Singers Arrested At Capitol


Yesterday’s crackdown on protesters drew an even larger crowd to the state Capitol today, as police made 29 more arrests.

Protesters packed the floor of the Capitol rotunda today and a full house of spectators watched from the two floors above. If the arrests on Wednesday were meant to keep people away, Frieda Schowalter of Madison said they failed. After she was arrested, she proudly displayed her $200 ticket and the plastic zip tie handcuffs police used to detain her.

“Is it a deterrent? No, it’s like kindling on a fire,” she said. “They just fanned the flames of my enthusiasm for the first article of the Wisconsin Constitution, which is freedom of speech. They fanned the flames of a lot of people today.”

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The arrests did drive away at least one protester. As the crowd got bigger and the arrests started, Michael Kissick made his way out of the building. “I haven’t crossed the police my whole life, actually, and I’m not going to start now,” he told WPR. “My approach was to take it to court.”

Kissick, an assistant professor of medical physics at the University of Wisconsin, brought the federal lawsuit that the Department of Administration is now pointing to as its grounds for these arrests. In that case, Judge William Conley blocked the state from requiring permits for groups of 20 or smaller. The state says that means groups of 21 or more need a permit or risk arrest. Kissick says that’s nowhere to be found in the ruling. He says a better strategy for the state would have been to leave the Solidarity Sing Along alone.

“[The Sing Along] was going to die,” he said. “It was on the verge of fading out. Now look at it. This is not the way. By adding energy to a protest, you’re not calming the protest down, you’re not having it go away. Nobody’s better off.”

The Department of Administration issued a statement saying that if the singers got a permit, they could stay without arrest. The Department has not responded to requests for an interview.