MADISON (WKOW) -- After weeks of arrests of protesters at the state capitol over failures to obtain authorizing permits, more than forty people participated Monday in a Solidarity sing-a-long, with Capitol police officers merely standing by.
Emergency rules on the requirement for a permit to occupy portions of the state capitol for larger gatherings expired Sept.12. Since then, permits have been issued for rallies to support Governor Walker and highlight American liberties, permitted weddings have taken place, and other events have been staged with permits. Participants in the protest sing-a-long have typically yielded to individuals with permits.
Several protest participants Monday stopped short of declaring victory for the principles of free speech, citing uncertainty over Governor Walker's administration's future plans. Through the arrests, participants have maintained no permit is needed to petition the government, although a federal judge ruled a permit could be required for rallies of twenty or more people.
"They don't see an end game for the strategy of just arresting people," protester Charles Uphoff tells 27 News. Uphoff says he's been arrested three times during Capitol protests in recent weeks.'
Dozens have been arrested since the federal judge's ruling, including the chaotic, take-down arrest by officers of protester Damon Terrell last month. An officer was injured, and Terrell was tentatively charged with felony battery to a police officer, but Dane County's district attorney dropped the charge, stating there was insufficient evidence to support it.
Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) has participated in the noontime protest sing-a-long. Hulsey tells 27 News the police crackdown on the protest spiked police overtime costs. Hulsey cites a memo from the legislative fiscal bureau, with its listing of nearly $49,000 in overtime costs between July 28 and August 10. The memo shows costs were less than half that amount in each of two, subsequent pay periods, as fewer protests took place due to the staging of events with permits. The last protest arrest took place Sept. 6.
Hulsey tells 27 News he's prepared for Walker administration officials to possibly mount another effort to stifle protest against his policies.
"Governor Walker has a lot of manhood to prove," Hulsey says.
In adopting emergency rules in April, department of administration officials said the permit process helped minimize disruption to work in the Capitol, and interference with visitors, including school groups. Officials also said permit enforcement was needed "...in order to protect the public safety and welfare."
Spokespersons for the governor, and the department of administration have yet to respond to requests for comment from 27 News on future plans for managing the presence of Capitol protesters.
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