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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 58.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: Solidarity Sing Along should be free to be annoying


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Capitol Police started arresting members of a group that has conducted noontime political sing-a-longs since Governor Scott Walker pushed through legislation weakening public employee unions.

Solidarity Sing Along participants have been warned that their events require a permit. Frankly, that's just reasonable. As a federal judge ruled recently events at the Capitol with more than twenty attendees can be required to have a permit because, after all, it is a public space and you don't have a right to dominate it at the expense of everyone else who wants to also enjoy it.

So, the singers had a couple of options. They could have kept their numbers below twenty or they could have gotten a permit. They chose to do neither I guess out of a sense of some sort of principle.

So, my first reaction to that is "oh, for cryin' out loud, just get a damn permit already."

But while the singers are being unreasonable here, so is the Walker administration, which is ultimately behind the arrests. There's no question that what the singers are doing is political speech and the downside of the First Amendment is that it protects annoying speech as well as the sublime.

Just because a rule exists doesn't mean it has to be enforced. If that were true we'd all get a dozen speeding tickets every day. Law enforcement folks make judgment calls all the time about what laws are worth enforcing and when to look the other way.

Who is the Solidarity Sing Along hurting exactly? Yeah, I suppose people touring or passing through the building have to put up with some pretty bad music, but the truth is that it would sound just as bad if there were 19 people singing legally. And anyway, it's a good lesson in democracy and free speech. Those freedoms come at a price and a couple dozen folks who just can't move on with their lives singing old protest songs is a small price to pay. Is it annoying? Yes. Is it worth arresting people over? Of course not.

Can't one side or the other just be reasonable here? Guess not.

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