Since July, people in Madison, Wisconsin have been getting arrested in the droves! Simply for assembling in their state capitol building, and joining in on a sing along. For an insider view, read this interview with Anica Bausch of the Solidarity Sing Along.
The reason I got involved in the Wisconsin Uprising was that, as a nurse at University Hospital, my union was under attack. A lot of people call the day Scott Walker put out a press release about Act 10 which attacked collective bargaining, "the day the bomb dropped". And I was directly affected, in that he named University Hospital even though it's not at all publicly funded.
First I thought about my union, but then I was focused on my patients, the people who would be impacted by cuts to Badger Care – and Scott Walker also has declined to participate in the referendum on Health Care that our President put forward. Walker's not only going after Badger Care, he is also messing with our water, and with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources). And that mining bill that's been put through, that's about to destroy some really beautiful land in the Pinokee Hills. It's all an attack on the health of our whole environment and everyone in it.
So soon for me it got bigger than just my own union, it became about his attacks on the patients I serve and the State I love.
Nurses like to be active, we don't like to sit around – so I became a participant. I went straight to the State capitol, and I've been there two to three times a week ever since.
I had been pretty involved in the protests of February and March 2011, and I happened to be there on the day that the Sing Along started, on March 11th. We started out just singing because it felt good - we had spent so much time shouting in the capitol, and singing was a way to raise our voices and come into unison together. And the next time, Steve Burns was there, he was there with some song-sheets. Things got going.
We sang (and still sing), old classics like We Shall Not be Moved and Eyes on the Prize, a favorite of mine. A friend who is involved in Singalong came up with a version of Which Side are You On, written by Florence Reece, which originally came out of the coal miner's struggle. We have local bands write songs, some of our members have written songs for the Solidarity Sing Along as well, and we now have 50 songs in our songbook.
We were really amped-up during the push for the Recall of Scott Walker. Then, after the Recall happened and Walker remained in office, there was division about whether the Solidarity Sing Along should continue. But at its low point, participation still always stayed steady at 20-30 people a day. Personally I'm in the camp that thinks we have to keep the Sing Along going every day, and I will continue singing in the capitol until Scott Walker is out of the capitol.
There was a crackdown against the Sing Along in October, 2012. People were mailed tickets, and I was one of those who was mailed a ticket for “unlawful assembly.” You never knew if you were going to get a ticket, because back then no one would ever come up to you when you were at the capitol and get your name and address or inform you you'd be getting a ticket. You'd just get a ticket in the mail.
How did they know who we were and where we lived?
They just seemed to have some kind of a list and you didn't know you were on it until you got a ticket. So that made it stressful, having the police watching over you.
The rules weren't new, Walker had introduced them early on during the Uprising, they just hadn't been enforced until October. Because during the occupation, Charles Tubbs was the police chief in the capitol, and everything was great. We had a relationship with his officers, we would say hello and goodbye at the start and finish of the day, and everything was for the most part very genial. Then Tubbs got a new job. It was the best decision for him, but some people think he was pushed out a bit, because he saw things very differently than Walker and his administration did. Walker said he wanted to put “plants” in the protests, and Tubbs wasn't about that. There's a pretty famous phone call where someone posed as David Koch and called Scott Walker directly, and managed to get through; Scott Walker thought he was actually talking to Koch, and they talked about using baseball bats against the protestors... That's not how Tubbs did things.
But Tubbs' replacement, David Erwin, was a former marine, and he was the former head of Scott Walker's personal security. I would see Tubbs every day in the capitol, but I've never actually seen Erwin, and we've never been able to talk to Erwin, we've never been able to negotiate with him in any way. My legislator had a meeting with him, and he walked out of the meeting. She asked him questions that he did not want to answer. It was a meeting about the tickets, she was just asking him questions, and he didn't want to answer her questions. Recently, the Dane Country Sheriff came to observe the Sing Along, and several Madison officers with Cops for Labor, have joined in. Some police officers are choosing to watch over this, to act as Observers.
Have you ever been to the Wisconsin State Capitol? It's always been kind of a People's Mic.
In the rotunda, on the ground floor, there are diamonds made of stone, and from the diamonds, you have the best acoustics. So we would stand on the diamonds and sing.
We would stand on the diamonds so our backs are facing the outside perimeter, and usually the police will come and tap you on a shoulder and say, “you have been identified as participating in an unpermitted ...” When there are more than 20 people, which is the “magic number”, then this bullhorn blares Erwin's voice, and we can't really understand what he is saying, but something about this being an unlawful assembly. So we've never really seen him, and we can't really even hear him. And then they go around the circle and arrest us.
I was there when they arrested Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, I was there when a 14 year-old was arrested in front of her mother, and I was there to see them arrest elderly women. And observers have been arrested as well - as outside observers get arrested, and photographers, what's happening in the capitol has started to get attention. I was really affected when I first saw people being arrested, especially one of my friends, Frieda.
She had just had her hip replaced and was using a crutch, and as they arrested her and took her away they did not allow her to use her crutch.
I knew she was in pain, and I knew that she is a peaceful person. I was astounded that they would be that heavy-handed.
I wasn't there on Monday when two brothers came to the Sing Along and were arrested. Damen, the brother of this pretty well-known figure CJ Terrell, who ran for office, was taking pictures when they targeted him. Waving his hands in the air, he backed up, and they tackled him. I wasn't there, but I did see the video, and it was heartbreaking to me, to see what I consider to be peaceful protestors doing what it is their right to do. That is the only arrest that I have seen like that. The National Lawyer's Guild put out a press release about this targeted arrest, and they called it racial profiling.
Video: Walker's New Guard Targets Black Photographer as Wisconsinites Sing "If I had a hammer..."
This takes a lot of resolve. I've been really impressed with how our people have maintained calm and clear-headed in the midst of all this. It's amazing that we have been able to be as peaceful and centered as we have been.
Most people in Madison live by an ethos of interdependence: the idea that you are a part of your community and that you should leave the world a better place than when you came into it. That's why I am doing this. Also because the Sing Along has actually become a way of decompressing. Especially when things get really tense inside the capitol, it's a way to de-stress. Wisconsin is the Polka State, so we do some polkas sometimes in the capitol rotunda, and people who come all the way to our capitol from around the world, really enjoy it. School groups come and they clap along. Along with all these visitors coming through, the legislators pass us on their way to their offices, we know they hear us singing every day. And I have met so many people I did not know before, and we know we are not alone – thousands of people have come through to participate in the Sing Along. The Sing Along never stopped since the occupation started, and today it's stronger than ever.
Anica Bausch is originally of Williams Bay and Waupun, and has lived in Madison since she was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. Raised by Ministers, her parents started a recycling program and got a food co-op going out of the church kitchen, and as a result she grew up deeply involved in her community. At 34, Anica works as a nurse at the University Hospital in Madison.