A week ago I sent two emails off to Madison. One to Secretary Mike Huebsch at the Department of Administration and the second to Chief Erwin of the Capitol Police. The questions essentially asked about the procedures being used by the Capitol Police when observing the Solidarity Sing Along, declaring it an event without a permit, and then arresting those they deem in violation of the administrative code.

Now I am certainly not a journalist and Blogging Blue isn’t a major media outlet (yet), so I didn’t expect much…a polite no comment at least…although I hoped to get at least one of the questions answered. Well, I gave them a week and that should be sufficient time to reply…so far nada from Chief Erwin.

But on Friday I received an email from the DOA…apparently a form email since other recipients were on Facebook questioning why they got it or where it came from that morning. Quite odd because I knew why I got mine…it had to be in response to my questions since it was to the email address I use only for outreach from Blogging Blue…but others claimed they had no contacts with the DOA. Well anyway, I won’t keep in suspense any longer, here’s the email:

Good morning,

Thank you for expressing your thoughts. We share a common goal of ensuring that everyone has access to the Capitol and can enjoy its beauty and tradition for years to come. A rich part of Wisconsin’s history is its freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right that we strongly support and our Capitol Police officers uphold

Hundreds of other organizations and individuals request a permit each year, and the permitting process has been in place since 1979 to help ensure that all citizens of our state have access to the building. Many organizations like to use the Capitol during the lunch hour, and we must give all members of the public the same opportunity to use the building.

The permit is free, and are issued regardless of the identity or viewpoint of the permit holder, including those on the left and right of the political spectrum. To date, the Capitol Police Department has approved 409 permits for 2013 and 18 permits for 2014. The permitting process is outlined further in Administrative Code – Chapter 2.

The Capitol Police protect freedom of speech, has a history of granting permits for protests, and will continue to do so in the future. The news stories are referring to individuals who have been cited for participating in an unlawful event in the Capitol rotunda. Only those who choose to actively participate in an unpermitted, unlawful event may be at risk for being cited. If the group that holds regularly scheduled events in the Capitol rotunda had a permit, they would be able to sing and hold their event without concern of receiving a citation. In addition, the courts have upheld the permitting process as constitutional so that all citizens can share the Capitol space. Visitors have not – and will not – be arrested for visiting our capitol.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Thank you,

Wendy Coomer

Assistant Deputy Secretary
Wisconsin Department of Administration

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