Saturday, August 10, 2013

Guest Post: Zoltán Grossman: An Even Better Circus

Guest post by Zoltán Grossman
Zoltán Grossman is a Professor of Geography and Native Studies at The Evergreen State College and a civilian supporter of Veterans for Peace who was attending the Vets for Peace Convention this week in Madison and is on the board of GI Voice/Coffee Strong. He was arrested at the Wisconsin State Capitol during the Solidarity Sing Along on Thursday, August 8, 2013.

I was arrested for singing Thursday at the Wisconsin State Capitol. I joined the daily Solidarity Singalong in the Rotunda at noon, on a break from attending the Veterans for Peace Convention. The police declared the Singalong an “unlawful assembly” because it had more than 20 people, then marched in to arbitrarily arrest people. I had not intended to get arrested.

Zoltán Grossman being arrested by the WI State Capitol Police.
Photo by Jenna Pope

I was singing a bit, but then just observed and took video and photos of the Capitol Police arresting citizens for expressing their views. Then the Police came to me, saying that they had seen me singing, and handcuffed me behind my back. They took me to the basement for processing, along with many others. I saw old friends Sue Pastor (who continued singing) and Jo Vukelich (who loudly objected to being searched by a male cop).

The Capitol cops said they’d send me to Dane County Jail for processing, because I was from out of state, along with a Vietnam veteran from Iowa, John Jadryev. The cops asserted that we had "No Ties" to Wisconsin, so I explained I’d lived here 25 years and edited an atlas of Wisconsin history. The hearts of most Capitol cops didn’t seem to be in their assigned tasks; one of them loosened our handcuffs a bit and allowed us to sit together.

When he asked my religion for the booking form, I identified myself as "both Jewish and Catholic, but being in handcuffs today I feel more Jewish." I told another cop that I’d just been to Circus World, but that this mass arrest for singing was an even better circus. He replied, "You got the full Wisconsin experience. Have you been to the State Fair for cream puffs?"

John and I were transported to Dane County Jail, after the squad car was momentarily swamped by protesters, making the officers really nervous. We were booked again, and began talking with the other inmates being booked. It was a scene right out of Alice’s Restaurant. One guy who worked as a stagehand said that he had missed his court date for an OWI offense, and asked what we were in for. "Singing," we said. "Really? Power to the people, dude," he replied. Another inmate said, "Yeah, Walker’s a douche."

One of the Capitol cops talked about the new snitzy uniforms they’d been issued, with a stripe down the leg, which one of the DeForest cops called "militaristic." We were held in Holding Cell 2 for two hours as we awaited processing, mostly talking with each other about Iowa, Wisconsin, and European history. We listened to the hard-luck stories of other inmates, which made our situation seem extremely minor.

When we got out, we were pleased that legal observers had spent two hours waiting for us, and letting us know our rights. The experience was no big deal personally, but it showed how low democracy in Wisconsin has fallen in two short years.

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If you'd like to help, you can contritube to the First Amendment Protection Fund, which helps arrestees cover court costs.
Many thanks!


  1. zoltan, you are a credit to the human race; a gentleman and a scholar. it was an honor to share the holding cell with you. john jadryev

  2. Great to see you this week Zoltan and Debbi - in our beloved Wisconsin. Hurry back - we need you! You might be interested in all the other 'dangerous' singers in this video
    ....solidarity from Judy Miner

  3. It just never ends does it. Thanks for your lucid description of the experience.

  4. You set a fine example for all Americans who have an interest in the welfare of future generations. No longer can Americans wish this country back to sanity!