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Essay: State Should Embrace Singer-Protestors

Light Brigading/Flickr

Recently in Madison, singing protestors have been making themselves heard in the State Capitol building, and that has Lake Effect essayist Avi Lank thinking.

Pity the poor workers in our state Capitol.

Almost every day at noon for months now, they have been subjected to singing by folks upset with the policies of Governor Walker and the Republican-led Legislature. Walker and lawmakers have offices in the building, as does the state Supreme Court.

The singers have declined to get a permit for what they see as exercising their constitutional rights, and Capitol Police in recent weeks have begun to arrest them. The sight of folks, many older and with long hair, being hauled away in handcuffs has hit YouTube to the delight of some and the disgust of others, depending on their political feelings.

Earlier this month, a video even circulated showing a Capitol Policeman politely telling folks watching the songfest from the balcony of the Capitol rotunda, some just curious and from out of state, that they, too, might be subject to arrest. State officials wisely backed down from that threat, I assume because they realized how weak and petty it looked.

But the video led to an interesting thought, calling to mind the sage advice to keep one’s friends close but one’s enemies closer. If the governor wanted to exploit the situation for all it is worth he should stop fighting the singers and instead embrace them as a wonderful manifestation of Wisconsin’s culture. He should direct state officials to start promoting them as a tourist attraction. I wonder how long the songfests would last if he did?

Avrum Lank was an award-winning reporter and columnist at the Milwaukee Sentinel and Journal Sentinel for more than 35 years. He lives in in Whitefish Bay and his freelance work has appeared in Milwaukee Magazine and Corporate Report Wisconsin magazine, among other places.