MADISON (WKOW) -- A group in support of Governor Walker used a permit to sing patriotic songs in the state capitol rotunda on Labor Day, as a regular group of anti-Walker protesters with organized labor ties found themselves outside the building.
Liberty Singers organizer Brent Renteria of the Town of Middleton tells 27 News his group obtained a rally permit to make sure people with alternative views to those of the Solidarity Sing-a-long have a chance to air those views. Renteria says obtaining the rally permit for Labor Day was motivated primarily by the holiday from work for those participating.
The regular, noon-time protest sing-a-long took place outside the capitol, as has been the practice of the protesters when someone uses a permit to reserve capitol rotunda space. Renteria's permit was for a seven hour period. Regular protester Kristen Forde says she suspects the permit was obtained to displace the union-sympathizing protest on Labor Day.
Conservative radio talk show Vicki McKenna of WIBA participated in the Liberty Singers event, and tells 27 News obtaining a permit is about security, not the political content of the activity.
"We just want folks to understand, the permit is easy to get, it's a way to protect all of us and out ability to come here to our beautiful capitol and express ourselves," McKenna says.
"I don't buy it," says Forde. "The rules have been changing, ever since the solidarity singers have been gathering."
Anti-Walker protesters maintain an exercise of free speech should not require a permit, and argue the weekday sing-a-long has no, formal participation or planning. A federal judge has ruled a permit can be required for capitol events of twenty or more people.
More than two hundred people have been arrested in the capitol for failing to have a permit, in the weeks since the judge's ruling.
McKenna says other Walker supporters have obtained permits for events in the capitol rotunda for upcoming dates in September. During her talk show, McKenna has encouraged people to apply for permits to stymie the Solidarity Sing-a-long.
A Madison man aligned with the views of the Solidarity Sing-a-long obtained permits for three September dates, but tells 27 News he did so to test the permit application system, which also calls for an assigning of liability to the permit holder. The man says sections of the permit involving liability were left blank by state capitol police.
Renteria says he was unconcerned about liability and willing to personally assume risk, believing his group of approximately a dozen people would cause no damage to the building.
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