Most days it’s a pretty lonely protest. The building is somewhat empty by almost 5:00, tourists have already moved on back to their hotels or cars, the rotunda echoes with every sound or voice. Oftentimes those who are there walk by or continue talking or taking photos and it is as if my voice isn’t being heard at all. I never know if it’s because they don’t like the message, they don’t know how to react, or if there is something else going on, but I just keep singing. Sometimes, like Thursday, a single person out of the crowd will applaud and raise a thumbs up. Occasionally everyone within earshot will stop and listen and applaud afterwards, as if they thought it was a scheduled concert or something.
There have been times when I’ve been joined by other protesters or total strangers, and these are often beautiful moments of sharing solidarity. There have been other times when I have been threatened by aggressive people who apparently don’t like my message, or the Capitol police, who almost a year and a half ago threatened to arrest me for singing without a permit. After that I showed up for several days in a row with tape over my mouth and signs about the threatened arrest and I would stand there flipping signs with the song lyrics on them. Many of the Solidarity Singers joined in during that time and sang the words while I showed the lyrics on poster board. That situation was resolved with a meeting between myself and the Capitol Police Chief (Charles Tubbs) and a representative from my Senator’s office (Mark Miller).
Sometimes I’m ready to stop and then something will happen to remind me why I am going. The Department of Administration will propose new rules limiting free speech in the Capitol or the Walker administration will propose a new law that is anethema to the people of Wisconsin. And so I keep going, hoping that my voice will remind legislators that we are watching them, that the fight continues even though the huge protests dwindled to a few diehards who sing every day at noon, myself, and those who still come daily or close to it with signs or voices.
I know that my letters to Scott Walker go unread, my chances to speak at hearings are limited under this administration because they either don’t schedule them or do so at inconvenient times and places, and I know that those who have temporary custody of the building do not want to hear my concerns. But I also know that all of them have heard my voice echoing through our seat of government. They have heard that call for justice and that declaration of eventual victory in the words of “We Shall Overcome”. And I know that those who have seats there that are on my side have also heard it and have said that it encourages them. So I will continue singing until that day that we do overcome.