School students attending a youth leadership conference have been scolded by armed security officers in the California Capitol in Sacramento for singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” in the rotunda, according to organizers of the conference.

“The patriotic expression was apparently so egregious that state troopers were called in to the rotunda to rebuke the students,” a statement from The Capitol Resource Institute said today.

“This was a ghastly overreaction to some students expressing their patriotism in the seat of government,” said Karen England, executive director of CRI, and director of the youth conference. “These young leaders have sacrificed a week of their summer to come learn about our government system and this is the ‘welcome’ they receive from the government.”

Conference organizers said several armed troopers entered the rotunda, accompanied by several capitol sergeants-at-arms, and they confronted conference organizers and students for singing without a permit from the legislature’s rules committee.

The 45 students from all across California were in the statehouse as part of their participation in the City on the Hill Youth Leadership Conference. At the intensive study sessions they learn the legislative and political processes.

“After spending the day meeting with lawmakers and their staff, the youth aged 14-18, engaged in a spontaneous expression of passion for their country by singing the national anthem and God Bless America,” CRI reported. “Tourists walking through the capitol stopped to listen to the singing and clapped enthusiastically.”

A similar expression of patriotism was exhibited by participants in the same conference just two years ago:

Officials said, however, it was a good lesson in liberty for those students, especially the two young participants whose father was held in a Communist prison in Romania and another student who is a Russian immigrant.

“These future leaders have seen first-hand how we are losing our liberties – including simply expressing our patriotism in public,” said Meredith Turney, the legislative liaison for CRI Impact and a graduate of City on the Hill.

“I am deeply saddened by the treatment these young patriots received at our state capitol,” she said.

In comments published on FlashReport, she elaborated: “A few years ago the students started the tradition of singing our national anthem in the rotunda at the end of the mock legislative session. While they were at the capitol today, the students wanted a practice run before their legislative session on the Assembly and Senate floors this Saturday. One student suggested singing God Bless America as well as the national anthem, and the other students enthusiastically agreed.

“Just moments after the students finished their impromptu patriotic expression, no less than four CHP officers descended upon the rotunda, along with two sergeant-at-arms. They confronted our staff and demanded to know why our students were singing in the rotunda without a permit from the rules committee. Apparently in the five minutes it took to sing the two patriotic songs, someone had called security and complained,” she wrote.

“The City on the Hill students were absolutely shocked … Why would their elected officials send armed guards to stop them from expressing such love for their country? And why do citizens need a permit to sing patriotic songs in their public buildings?” she said.

The young leaders, however, were undeterred. They asked for and received a government “permit” to sing the national anthem in the capitol rotunda tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. and are inviting friends and family to join them.

“City on the Hill students are extremely grateful to Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa and his outstanding staff for obtaining the last-minute permits we need to exercise our ‘freedom’ in the place where freedom should be most fervently guarded,” Turney said.


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