Governor Walker insists the Solidarity Sing Along apply for a permit, as does Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, as does the Capitol Police…and they all assure the Solidarity Sing Along that they will be issued the required permit if they would only apply. Well maybe and maybe not…but so far the two entities that applied for permits on behalf of the Solidarity Sing Along had their requests granted and no arrests were made on those two days. One permit was requested by NBC 15 in Madison and the other by a Minnesota resident, Mr. Elliot Doran on August 14th.

Now the participants in the Solidarity Sing Along will not apply for a permit on a number of grounds. The primary one being that they don’t need a permit because they are protected by both the US and Wisconsin Constitutions…that is something to cover in another blog.

Another reason is the permits require the applicant to assume financial responsibility for the event…something no one in his or her right mind would take on given the DOA’s propensity to inflate damages…

But the other reason that a permit can’t be applied for…is the Solidarity Sing Along isn’t an organized group…there is no leadership…no co-ordination…no regular agenda…no group. And despite the headline on the Progressive article linked above and again here that there is “Proof That Solidarity Singers (name from the headline, not mine, since I got chastised for using Solidarity Singers as a name representing a group…which can’t possibly exist) Are Not An Organized Group”, I say that they are!

I have had people tell me that they don’t belong to a group despite the fact that they participate in the sing along…they are free agents…they attend when they want…no one tells them too. Well that is true of any event so that doesn’t prove the existence of a group or lack of a group…just that an event is taking place and people feel free to attend and participate as they see fit.

But to say it isn’t an organized group is a little silly…there is a general agreement to meet in the Capitol Rotunda and sing from noon to 1 pm…it’s not just a pick up thing…hey everybody, let’s go to the Capitol and sing!! There is a general agreement that they don’t sing in the rotunda if someone else has pulled a permit for that same time period…they sing outside…and somehow that gets communicated…that would apparently require some organization.

There’s a published song book…you can download it and after the arrests started and the number of participants increased someone on Facebook posted that they would print extra copies to distribute…it’s not like someone yells out let’s do Stairway to Heaven and everyone nods and jumps in!

There is a Facebook page name Solidarity Sing Along!

There is a website! There is a legal defense fund and a call for contributions!

Not an organized group? Pulleeze!

40 Responses to Some Mythology of the Solidarity Sing Along

  1. Edward ThanksaMillion Kuharski says:

    Ed: If you Pulleeze, a couple of points:

    1.) None of the above listed voluntary actions of people freely and independently associating, as is their perfect right as human beings, are necessary nor sufficient to constitute formal incorporation as a legal entity, which is what is required to meet the conditions of being a “group” or “organization” with the legal capacity to do any kind of business on behalf of any or all members of said group. No articles of incorporation, no bylaws, no dues or other criteria for membership, no membership roster, no officers or board of trustees, no regular meetings, no clubhouse or lodge, no newsletter, no filings with the IRS; therefore no group for purposes of applying for nor being responsible for a permit. Because, whether you agree with the profane use of the 14th Amendment to create immortal psuedo-persons: there is no corporate person to do so. In legal matters, words have specific meanings. “Common sense” doesn’t cut it.

    2.) The Federal government claims the power to conscript individuals for involuntary service in the military. However, it has suspended the use of that power since 1975. The states and local units of government have no such powers. A significant part of the First Amendment, and our even better-written Wisconsin Constitution’s Article 1 (Declaration of Rights), is the right of free association in all matters; political, commercial, religious, educational, recreational and, yes, musical. There is no freedom of association, or of public assembly or consultation, unless there is the individual right to choose NOT to belong to any group or organization. And, even more critically, in our free democratic society no government, or department thereof, has the power to make me a member of any group or organization that I have not freely and formally chosen to join. And I have a right to privacy regarding such membership or association with any legally constituted group or organization. I will refer you to the unfortunate case of one Senator Joe McCarthy who presided over a reign of terror and defamation by claiming the power to draft anyone of his choosing into a group of his invention under the color of a Senate Committee. There is no tangible difference between his illegitimate claim of such power and the equally illegitimate claim of the Capitol Police to unilaterally declare individuals to be members of a group of their invention in order to claim the power to arrest and charge citizens with “unlawful assembly”. The Capitol Rotunda is the nexus of 8 public streets and the world’s most pure and intentionally constructed public forum. Regulating its primary uses through an intrusive permit scheme is as unreasonable and inappropriate as imposing a similar scheme on peoples’ general use of the public streets & highways. Permit schemes ARE appropriate for uses that temporarily encroach on the general public’s right to free passage on streets, such as in the case of a street closing permit for a block party. But we who gather to Sing Along are not a block party. We are not seeking exclusive use of the public space and have no legal basis to do so. The Capitol Police are doing the equivalent of putting “security checkpoints” along a public highway. We don’t do that sort of thing in a free society.

    • Ed Heinzelman says:


      An organization (or organisation) is a social entity that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment. The word is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon which means “organ” – a compartment for a particular task.

      There are a variety of legal types of organizations, including corporations, governments, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, armed forces, charities, not-for-profit corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, and universities. A hybrid organization is a body that operates in both the public sector and the private sector simultaneously, fulfilling public duties and developing commercial market activities. A voluntary association is an organization consisting of volunteers. Such organizations may be able to operate without legal formalities, depending on jurisdiction, including informal clubs. Organizations may also operate in secret and/or illegally in the case of secret societies, criminal organizations and resistance movements.

      In contrast to the appointed head or chief of an administrative unit, a leader emerges within the context of the informal organization that underlies the formal structure. The informal organization expresses the personal objectives and goals of the individual membership. Their objectives and goals may or may not coincide with those of the formal organization. The informal organization represents an extension of the social structures that generally characterize human life – the spontaneous emergence of groups and organizations as ends in themselves.

  2. Ed, the only Mythology here is what you wrote. By what you say, if you attended a Rush concert, that would make you a member of Rush.

    Come to Madison. Talk face to face with people that attend.

    I attend the sing along on a regular basis, and 75% of the people that show up daily are people I have never seen before. Kind of amazing for a “Group” you accuse me for being a “member” of.

  3. Greg Gordon says:

    There are people who show up every day, with their dogs, at the Middleton dog park on Highway Q. Some of the people know each other by name! The dogs perform the same greeting ritual every time they meet another dog. Some of the people bring water, and poop bags, and treats. They walk around a track together, these so-called “dog owners” and their “canine companions”. Somebody call the FBI! What we have here is an organized group!

    (You didn’t hear this from me, and if you see me at the dog park, I don’t know you.)

  4. mal says:

    The amount of time you spend, inexplicably, flacking for Walker and Erwin on this is mystifying.

    The Singers are targeted because they do not support Walker; and ludicrously so were supporters and observers for “spectating,” until even the Capitol Police were shamed into backing off after they their spectating detail was caught warning state legislators, and now arresting journalists.

    The Singers feel they have the right, as they have since the construction of the modern capitol was built as a public space for cultural and politcal gatherings, to express their political sentiments and leave.

    Some write letters, some drop their rep’s offices, some sing, some hold signs.

    This seems to bother the writers at Blogging Blue and of course the Republicans at the DoA and the governor’s office.

    Clearly, Blogging Blue has made common cause with Walker on this.

    To borrow from Justice Brennan in the great civil rights case, Dombrowksi, Walker’s intended “chilling effect” is finding allies across the political spectrum.

    I guess I ought not be surprised; it’s an old story.

    To borrow from John Nichols in The Nation, and his non-ironic references to the Alien and Sedition Acts, perhaps you can discern the relevancy of Brennan’s indignant striking down of laws causing a “chilling effect” in the exercise of political speech.

    Writes Nichols:

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is no John Adams (of the “Alien and Sedition Acts” infamy). But prospective Republican presidential candidate’s delusions of imperial grandeur have led him to cobble together a set of rules that he is using to have dozens of dissenters (including veterans, grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers with children and top teachers) arrested for assembling in the rotunda of the state capitol and singing labor songs.

    Never mind that the “Solidarity Sing Alongs” were held peacefully, and without significant incident, before the governor’s crackdown began this summer.

    The arrests escalated on Thursday. And, though Walker plays on a small stage, those familiar with the basic outlines of American constitutional history will note a certain historical irony in the drama the governor has scripted.

    First, an elected official, Madison Alder Mark Clear, the former president of the city council, was arrested for joining in the singing of “This Land Is Your Land.”

    Then, just a few minutes later, Progressive magazine editor Matt Rothschild was detained when he attempted to record what was happening. Rothschild informed the arresting officers that he was a journalist and that he had every right to cover the story.

    Clear and his fellow singers can point to a US Constitution that guarantees that Americans may assemble and petition for the redress of grievances—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring, “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

    Rothschild can point to a US Constitution that guards against any abridging of the freedom of the press—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring that “no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

    Yet, both men were arrested. The governor and his allies argue that a federal court ruling that allows officials to establish permit requirements has cleared the way for a wholesale rejection of constitutional values.

    • Mike,

      Your habit of accusing people of being complicit with Walker because they disagree with you is despicable.

      Oh, and take a look in a mirror. I think your hair may be on fire.

      • mal says:

        You are making “common cause” with Walker for the reasons stated.

        I value intelligent disagreement. Sound argumentation and rigor in inductive reasoning are certainly more important than the conclusion reached over a given phenomenon.

        Your ad hominem and other personal disparaging comments referring to my indignation over the violation of the rights of others are foolish.

        Yes, I am incensed at the violation of my fellows’ rights.

        And I am often puzzled why others do not share this concern.

        As for accusing people being complicit with Walker in the comment cited, I say that one flacking for Walker on this issue is making common cause with Walker on this issue. This seems an obvious point, but one with which you disagree and find “despicable.”

        In any event, the level of your disputation would suggest an incapacity to internalize the logical rules of inference as well as a refusal to construct an empirical case using facts and evidence.

        This method of virtually shouting a slogan and running is the MO of Scott Walker and the Republicans with whom you at least share a style of argumentation and a refusal to engage in fact-based arguments; no matter other policy disagreements I assume you have with Walker.

        • Ed Heinzelman says:

          Just to be clear here. Blogging Blue exists because of the hard work of Zach Wisniewski! And he invited all of the bloggers who have graced his website over the years for any number of his own reasons.

          Each blogger is allowed to write his or her own thoughts, ideas or opinions without interference from Zach or anyone else at Blogging Blue. There is no party line. We don’t have deadlines. We don’t have idea meetings. We don’t have staff assignments. In fact I have actually only met two or three of the other people who have blogged on this site in person. In all of my years writing for Blogging Blue Zach has only edited ONE of my entries and it was to correct a statement of fact. It was the right thing to do.

          The thoughts and ideas in this post are mine and mine alone…it is wrong to suggest otherwise.

          • Ed’s exactly right. I don’t expect the folks who blog here to march in lockstep – and my views on the Milwaukee County Board are proof of that – because unlike some I think there’s plenty of room for healthy debate/discussion/disagreement among liberals/progressives/Democrats without doing harm to our cause(s).

    • Ed Heinzelman says:


      “The amount of time you spend, inexplicably, flacking for Walker and Erwin on this is mystifying.”

      When this is your first sentence out of the box, I find it difficult to accept your other position: “I value intelligent disagreement.”

      If you want to take a you’re either for us or agin us stance…I have no further words for you…good day sir.

    • mal, when you make sweeping statements please make sure your facts are straight.

      For example, you wrote,

      “This seems to bother the writers at Blogging Blue and of course the Republicans at the DoA and the governor’s office.

      Clearly, Blogging Blue has made common cause with Walker on this.”

      I don’t recall making “common cause” with Scott Walker on ANY issue, much less this one.

      In fact, I’d encourage you to go back through our archives and read what I’ve written, then I’d encourage you to correct your statement.

  5. Mal,

    Judge Conley ruled that the current access policy of the DOA actually FAVORS political speech, which is the content based distinction he finds unconstitutional. He wrote that he found little merit in some of Kissick’ more sweeping constitutional arguments. He does not challenge the DOA’s authority to require some sort of permitting process.

    I was born among, and raised among, rednecks. Some measure of ad hominem attack is in my blood, especially when I’m called a coward beneath contempt by commenters refusing to even use their full name, or who suggest I am complicit with fascists.

  6. Steve Burns says:

    This seems like an odd aspect of the story to focus on. Claiming we’re not an organized group isn’t any part of the ACLU case against the permit policy, and it’s not very often used as an argument against getting the permit (first amendment and the liability provisions of the policy are probably reasons #1 and 2 that I’ve heard from the singers.)

  7. Steve Burns says:

    There is a tendency among certain liberals to direct their fire at people they imagine are to their left, just to prove how “reasonable” and “centrist” they are. There’s also a tendency for certain bloggers to nitpick over small differences to show they “don’t march in lockstep” and are willing to offend people “on both sides.” I don’t know Ed, so I can’t say for sure that he suffers from either of these maladies, but he might.

  8. Steve,

    Who are you talking to? I’m trying to get at just who thinks the current post Conley access policy, besides the singers and your supporters, is unconstitutional. That point seems central to most of this discussion. The judge seems to think the permit policy is reasonable. So do I.

    • Or I guess I should have said, who are you talking about, i.e. certain liberals, etc, etc, and certain bloggers, etc. etc. Are you talking about me?

      • Steve Burns, it’s not about offending people on both sides; we simply share different viewpoints. Steve Carlson and I don’t agree on the Solidarity Sing Along, but I don’t find his view offensive.

        Also – who here is trying to be “centrist?” I know Steve Carlson well enough to know the man is no centrist, and the same can be said for Ed. Just because they don’t share your views on the Solidarity Sing Along doesn’t mean they’re not liberals; it simply means they don’t share your views.

  9. Ed Heinzelman says:

    Yeah…no organization at all: : today’s Facebook post:

    The Department of Administration events calendar currently lists no scheduled, permitted events in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda during the noon hour this week.

    There is a wedding ceremony scheduled for Thursday, August 22nd from 5-5:45 pm on the first floor Capitol Rotunda, and two weddings scheduled on Saturday, August 24th. Congratulations to the happy couples.

  10. Steve Burns says:

    Steve: Ed wrote the post, so I’m talking about Ed. That’s why I mentioned him by name in the comment.
    As for the constitutionality of the permit requirement, I’m well aware that courts have ruled that governments have a right to place content neutral restrictions on assembly. Are we obligated to agree with the courts? If we can disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United (or Dred Scott, for that matter) can’t we also disagree with court decisions that restrict the right of free assembly?
    In general, courts have been WAY too deferential to elected officials who want to restrict our rights of free assembly. I object to that, and think its time for citizens to be more assertive about our rights. By refusing to comply with laws we disagree with, just as the singers in the Capitol are doing.

    • Steve,

      Misunderstood. Thought you were talking to Ed in a previous comment, not about him. Thanks for the clarification.

      I also appreciate your response. It’s among, if not the most, reasonable, measured and clear response I’ve read yet from a singalong supporter. Of course you can disagree with the courts.

      What I’ve objected to here are singalong supporters hurling insults, smears, innuendo, attacking the blog, and making absolute statements about how First Amendment rights ARE being attacked, without the benefit of qualifying language or, apparently, having read the ruling in its entirety.

      I don’t believe your right to assembly or speech is being restricted or under attack, and I’m not convinced this is a fight worth the time and resources needed to fight it. That said I wish you all well in court.

  11. Steve Burns says:

    Still trying to figure out why Ed thinks this question is so important.

    • And I am wondering why everyone has gotten so totally off track…when I simply questioned the validity of ONE rationale for refusing to get a permit. I have never suggested that any one get or not get a permit. I have never suggested that the sing along continue or cease. I have not disparaged any individual singer or the group or the event…or suggested that they aren’t sincere in their participation…or suggested anyone quit participating.

      • Edward ThanksaMillion Kuharski says:

        To reiterate what I said above, I think Judge Conley, the DOA, the Circuit Courts and many of the posters here are weighing in on the wrong point.

        There’s nothing wrong with a fair, well crafted and administered scheme for regulating encroaching uses in any public venue (like a street closing permit for a block party). But there is everything wrong with misapplying such a scheme to the primary, free and properly UNregulated uses of such public venues. It is not reasonable or proper for such a permit scheme to apply to the public using the public way (streets,etc.) for ordinary activities that don’t obstruct or unduly restrict others’ access as well. And the government has no business and no significant government interest in controlling or limiting peoples’ right of free association and assembly in public space where that is the primary use. Period. The Supreme Court’s ruling was about a recreational space being used as a public forum. Totally different situation; not really applicable here.

        The Capitol rotund is both a public way AND an intentional, designed and traditionally used, public forum. No permit scheme is permissible to obstruct/restrict the public’s use of this most public space.

  12. Steve Burns says:

    My apologies if anyone reads my previous comments as an attack on liberals in general. Some guys are just nitpickers whatever their political orientation. I suspect that if Ed was a socialist, he would be the type of socialist who spends all his time expounding on the doctrinal errors of other socialists.

  13. affinis says:

    My own personal view on this….I myself tend to be more of a pragmatist than a purist. Whether an assemblage of individuals constitutes a group (or not) falls on a continuum. After some involvement with the Solidarity Sing Along (very occasional participation since 2011, then every day since the mass arrests began), I tend to think that Ed is more wrong than right on this particular question. SSA is very anarchic. There’s the cliché “herding cats” – well, SSA is even more extreme – at least with cats, if you run around frantically enough, you can sort of get collective movement. IMO, not the case with SSA. And the longer I’m involved, the more clear that becomes to me. There is a limited degree of collective action – otherwise singing along together wouldn’t even be possible. But….it’s very limited. There are people who participate pretty regularly, but also many different faces each day. If someone suggests/initiates an idea that others like, it may propagate (e.g. a songbook). A set of individuals might take an action like starting the First Amendment Protection Fund. But if anyone tries to get real collective movement….utters a word like “strategy”….there’s an intense negative response and everyone scatters. On recent Fridays, some people wanted to sing outside while others wanted to sing inside, and a lot of people would have favored keeping everyone together, but coordination was impossible – so whoever chose to sing inside did so, and likewise for those who chose to sing outside. This also intersects with the liability issue in important ways – since coordinated control is impossible (whereas in groups with defined members or some degree of hierarchical structure, there’s generally a degree of control sufficient to limit liability risk). I’ve heard SSA referred to as being analogous to an ongoing game of pickup basketball, or to a tradition like singing “Take me out to the ball game” in the seventh inning of a baseball game – and, from what I’ve seen, I tend to think these analogies are not entirely off the mark.

    On the question of permits, my own thoughts are here:

    Moreover, I disagree with Ed’s “sidetracked” take. I think everyone is aware we’re protesting Act 10, etc. (which is why Beil put out the call for union members to attend). Walker and those in his administration are authoritarians. That drives many of their choices (with regard to Act 10, reproductive rights, emergency rules and permit requirements, etc.). I have long argued that SSA is a perfect example of a dilemma action (and I’ve long expected the Walker administration to eventually overreact just as they’ve now done). SSA takes advantage of an intrinsic vulnerability. Some material on dilemma actions:

    • “I disagree with Ed’s “sidetracked” take”

      I tried to clarify that earlier in another comment…I don’t think the majority of sing along participants are sidetracked…although some of the new participants who are coming out since July 26th may have different reasons for attending…but the majority of the press and blog coverage has focused on the Constitutional issues being raised and the core principles are being lost in the public forums.

  14. Jean says:

    The idea that someone on the “left” needs to tear down other people on the left because of a term is really sad to me. If you don’t like what the people at the Solidarity Sing Along are doing, let’s hear some constructive criticism. What are you doing to save your Freedom of Speech at the capitol? Or don’t you really care about that? Maybe your group should be called “Blogging Purple”.

    • Of course we should be called “Blogging Purple,” because we’re clearly “purple” if we don’t toe the line on every issue.

      • Paul says:

        Zach, maybe we could follow the grand Democratic tradition of capitulation and preemptive compromise, pull out a color wheel and come up with a good name? Blogging Ultraviolet? Seriously while we havent agreed on every issue I don’t think when people are willing to formulate a reply and express themselves rationally there is any need to accuse anyone of being in Walker’s pocket or being Blogging Red. As long as no one is just replying “bullshit” and dismissing other points of view that is…

    • I am working on my Freedom of Speech on the blog site…why do you have an issue with that?

  15. Jean says:

    You don’t want to be thought of as “purple” and we don’t want to be thought of as a “group”. They are labels. That was my point. It seems you just want to tear down a group of people over a term. I don’t get it. I would think the left would be supporting each other. We are all fighting for the same end goal aren’t we?

    • Just so we’re clear, I’m not trying to tear down anyone, because I’m not opposed to what the folks of the Solidarity Sing Along are doing.

      You’re absolutely right that we’re all fighting for the same end goal, but it’s important to keep in mind that we don’t always agree on how best to get to that end goal, nor is there just one way to get to that goal.

  16. Duane12 says:

    “There is a Facebook page…”
    “There is a website…”
    “Not an organized group? Pulleeze!”

    I have some questions, along with my answers, for you too, Ed.

    “Pulleeze,” doesn’t almost every spontaneous gathering or movement these days eventually go online and have a website or Facebook page?

    Yes, as view it.

    Are the Solidarity Singers a 501c group or have they made application?

    Do the solidarity Singers have a formal management structure or are incorporated?

    Do I need permission to spontaneously join in with the Solidarity Singers or must meet membership criteria?

    No, no, no, in my opinion and therefore I reject your false or implied assertion that the Solidarity Singers is an “organized” group.

    A definition of terms is important in any discussion; I believe your argument assumes your definition is correct and applicable to what or who the Solidarity Singers are. I do not.

  17. Duane12 says:

    Allow me one more thought, Ed, on the definition of an “organized” group.

    When a group’s numbers can spontaneously and suddenly jump from twenty to thousands without any “call to order” or structured assemblage, I can not see how you or anyone could call it a “organized” group.

    • Ed Heinzelman says:

      “The informal organization represents an extension of the social structures that generally characterize human life – the spontaneous emergence of groups and organizations as ends in themselves.”

      I’ll leave it at that…

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.