Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Madison Capitol: Weapons Of Mass Distraction

Facebook meme circulating from SSWIDTMS
The Solidarity Sing-Along has been happening on a daily basis for more than two years. They arrive just before lunchtime, they sing, they go home. It's about as routine and unsexy as non-violent protests go.

Then in July, the gloves came off on arresting singers who were deemed to be part of a group larger than 20 who the DOA (Department of Adminstration) and the Capitol Police decided should be required to apply for a permit to sing their protest songs inside the Capitol building. Such a permit means someone must be willing to be responsible for damage to the building - which in the past the DOA has hilariously inflated - and the sing-along doesn't work that way. Anyone who wants to sing just shows up.

They don't have to require a permit, but they are.

So, the arrests began. Each day, random singers, observers, and a journalist or two were handcuffed and led away to a lunchroom to be processed for their citation - even though the ticket amounts to the severity of a parking citation and could be given right there on the floor.

Attention grew and more press showed up to document the arrests and the sing-along got bigger.

It was only a matter of time before Miles Kristan and his friends, Segway Jeremy Ryan and the Terrell brothers were drawn like moths to the flame of the cameras lights and flash photography. They can't resist a good photo-op - especially if it includes them.

[For the record, the Siren likes CJ and Damon Terrell. They are often smart, funny and sincere. As for Kristan and Ryan - they are dicks who treat everyone around them like shit. Disrespectful, arrogant and selfish.]

Pretty soon stories from the sing-along started surfacing about Ryan being nasty and rude to other singers - which is de rigueur Ryan behavior. Another, about Kristan verbally abusing candidate of congress, Rob Zerban, as he observed to support the singers. Typical.

Then yesterday, in Monday's sing-along, the Terrell brothers were each arrested in a particularly extreme fashion after Damon backed away from officers who said he was under arrest and CJ sat on the floor and refused to stand up when officers ordered him to.

Both these actions were non-violent, but constitute resisting arrest by law and allowed the officers to tackle them and employ "pain-compliance" techniques. The layman may not know this, but CJ and Damon do. Other singers were shoved by police in the melee and of course the singing stopped because of the disturbance.The photos and video which documented the arrests were dramatic and disturbing.

They were also beside the point - creating the exact kind of distraction someone like Scott Walker would buy if the participants weren't already supplying it for him.

Instead of peaceful people being led away while they continued to sing - a fight broke out making the sing-along look like a street fight not a non-violent protest of Scott Walker's policies. The story became the way people were arrested and why, and not whether they should be arrested.

With Walker's dismal record on jobs, his failure to participate in health care exchanges, the cronyism found in the Capitol police chief's pay raise and the myriad of failures over the last few years - what he needs most is a distraction from that conversation and our friends provided that for him by making the sing-along about themselves and the police.

The Madison community may be outraged by the force in which in Terrell brothers were arrested yesterday -  it was outrageous, but the rest of the state sees petulant thugs who can't follow rules. Score one for Walker.

Kristan, Ryan and the Terrell brothers know they are a target for the Capitol police. They also know they are the face of everything a lot of people resent about the Madison protests.

When the faces of people arrested each day are grandmothers, young students, veterans and people who look like your neighbors - the sing-along protest has power. When it is Kristan, Ryan and the Terrell brothers, it looks like the circus has come back to town.

Daily, peaceful action is hard. Creating chaos with the aid of a willing police force is easy.

The Siren thinks those that are resisting arrest are taking a dangerous risk with the message the Solidarity Sing-Along has built over the last two plus years. They must recognize this is not their own personal protest to exploit. That police officers will attack you and pin you down if they think you are resisting arrest isn't news.

Dignity changes hearts and minds. It may not be fashionable and everyone may not agree - but peace is ALWAYS the way.