MADISON (WKOW) -- The Solidarity Singers will no longer face arrest for not getting a permit to demonstrate at the State Capitol.
An out-of-court settlement in a related case will allow the singers to gather in the Capitol, as long as they notify authorities of their plans in advance.
The Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) and the ACLU of Wisconsin reached a settlement agreement to a 2012 lawsuit filed on behalf UW-Madison Professor Michael Kissick.
Kissick argued that he felt his first amendment rights were threatened by the arrests of several Solidarity Singers at the Capitol in September of 2012.
After the settlement was announced on Tuesday, Kissick told 27 News he was very happy with the agreement. It allows groups of 12 or more people to gather for an event at the Capitol, without a permit, as long as they give DOA at least 48 hours advance notice.
"I'm not asking permission, which is what a permit really is, and there's not all this extra stuff about liability, and all this other information that they wanted," said Kissick referring to the past permit policy. "You can even notify anonymously, as long as they have a contact."
Attorneys who are representing several of the singers over pending citations, say the agreement is a work-around to the prior permitting rules.
"It should potentially eliminate arrests if someone's willing to call every week and give notice that they're going to be there and there's gonna be more than 12 people there, which there normally are," said Attorney Patricia Hammel.
Republicans in the Capitol reacted to the news with a wait and see attitude.
"My hope is that whatever they've reached an agreement on, that it keeps with the principles that we always have said, which is people should have a right to visit the Capitol, but they don't have a right to take it over everyday," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).
And even some of the singers expressed uncertainty over whether someone would actually call to make the proper notification to DOA each week.
"In the past when we've tried to devise some sort of common legal strategy or come to an agreement about what would be acceptable to people, we haven't ever been able to do that," said Hammel.
Kissick, who participates only occasionally at the singalongs, hopes the notifications are made so ugly scenes with multiple arrests can be avoided.
"Everybody can make up their own minds, but I like to participate in the singalongs when I can and I want it to last a long time," said Kissick. "It has its power through longevity."
If those notifications aren't made, groups of 12 more would still be subject to arrest.
DOA Spokesperson Stephanie Marquis says the hundreds of open cases on citations they have already issued will still be prosecuted.
As part of the settlement agreement, DOA will pay the attorney's fees for the ACLU of Wisconsin, which total more than $88,000.
MADISON (WKOW) -- A settlement agreement related to the Capitol permitting process has been made between the Department of Administration and the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation.
The agreement acknowledges the permit process is constitutional, and that DOA can require permits. But, it does provide an option for those who don't want to get one.
Groups with 12 or more people can give the department advance notice of their gathering. The notice will not reserve the space like a permit would, but it allows people to avoid arrest.
"The Capitol is where the people's business occurs; where all citizens should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights," DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said. "During the past few years, we held listening sessions about the permitting process, met with legislators, and reached out to those who failed to follow the rules required to use the space. The permit process has been repeatedly upheld as constitutional by the courts, and today's settlement demonstrates ACLU's agreement with the process as well. We have taken reasonable steps to ensure all visitors and citizens can enjoy our beautiful Capitol building, and I'm hopeful we can all move forward together."
Since 1979, the permitting process has been part of Wisconsin's Administrative Code.
The Capitol Police Department issues the free permits to use the Capitol regardless of political party, affiliation, or content. As of Tuesday, the Capitol Police have issued 459 permits this year, and 496 permits were issued in 2012.
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