Archive for the ‘capitol protests’ Category

Voter ID To Pass in Assembly Today

UPDATE: Wisconsin Voter Suppression bill passes assembly and moves on to the Senate where it will most likely pass easily.  Wisconsinites must now show a valid photo ID with current address information in order to vote.  Bad day for participatory democracy.

In a matter of hours, the Wisconsin State Assembly will pass one of the most restrictive voter ID bills in the United States.   This bill, AB-7, would  effectively disenfranchise many low-income, elderly and disabled people even though widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin is essentially a myth.  In 2008, the City of Milwaukee police department conducted a sweeping and comprehensive investigation of the 2004-5 election cycle.  The 67 page report detailed mistakes, errors, and in some cases sloppy procedures by poll workers, but failed to discover significant incidences of voter fraud.  At the time, Foaming-at-the-mouth Milwaukee Conservative Talk Show Host Charlie Sykes called the report a “bombshell”. He propagated the myth on the air and whipped up a frenzy of concern among the far right. most of it proven to be unfounded. What the oft cited report did find was a situation where more votes were cast than voters recorded.  This was clearly detailed in the report to be a clerical and procedural error, not voter fraud. The report goes on to state that that there is nearly no proof of fraud, and cites “the laxity of poll workers” and procedural errors. Investigations of specific cases including double voting, found that most could easily be explained; again clerical errors such as twins with same date of birth and fathers and sons where workers confused Junior and Senior.

What this bill will do is make it nearly impossible for students, who generally lean liberal, to vote. The bill would require voters to provide a state ID issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles that includes a current address. Student ID’s, initially excluded, are now ok. But the Student ID’s must include the same information contained on DMV issued identification cards. Cash-strapped universities will most likely not spend scarce financial resources on such things. Kevin Kennedy, of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections,  stated: “In order to cultivate engaged, active citizens we need to facilitate voting among our youth rather than imposing artificial barriers to participation.”

It will also complicate the absentee ballot procedure, make it harder for the homebound elderly and disabled to participate in democracy, and potentially cause low income residents to stay away from the polls because perhaps they need to choose between paying their utility bill, or updating their drivers license.

Rep. Jon Richards (D)- 19th Assembly district said moments ago in the now underway hearing “that of the 17 cases of voter fraud in ’08; half were felons trying to vote.” Hardly evidence of wide-spread voter fraud, and somewhat ironically, won’t be prevented by this current GOP authored bill. If you are a felon, and you have a drivers license, you could still potentially vote.

Unfortunately, this bill will pass because the votes necessary to implement it are there.  Thousands of Wisconsin residents will be disenfranchised and most likely stay away from the polls. This is another example of the right wing war on the working class, the elderly and the poor designed specifically to create a permanent Republican majority.  They are pushing this agenda in an accelerated fashion in order to pass a host of measures before the impending mass recall elections;  including concealed carry, voter ID, splitting the UW- System, Corporate Tax Breaks and the Privatization of Entitlement programs.   Let’s not forget that they’ve already attempted to destroy the public unions.

It’s  a Brand New Day in America’s Dairy Land.  WisconsinÜber Alles. 

May 14 Capitol Rally

Date: May 14, 2011 – 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Wisconsin State Capitol Madison, WI
See map: Google Maps

Walker and legislative allies plan to bypass courts, jam rights-stripping measures through with their budget proposal!

2:30 – Musical Guest: PurgAtory Hill – pat mAcdonald and MelanieJane.

3:00 – Speakers including:

Dave Cieslewicz
Grant Hendrickson
Phil Neunfeldt – AFL-CIO
Ben Manski, Liberty Tree Foundation
Sen. Jon Erpenbach
Christian P, Youth of Voices de la Fronterra
Kabzuag Vaj – Freedom, Inc
Sarah Lloyd, Family Farm Defenders
Leon Burzynski, President of WIARA
Alex Hanna, President of the TAA
Bob Jahn, AFSCME
Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin
Mary Bell, President, WEAC


We Are Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Wave will host a rally on the Capitol steps on Saturday, May 14, to send Scott Walker and his legislative allies a resounding message: stop your attacks on working people.


Wisconsinites have joined together and prevented Scott Walker’s radical plan to take away worker rights for three months, but he is not done.  As we learned from their illegal attempt to jam through the budget repair bill in the dark of night, Walker and his allies are so hell-bent on taking away the rights of Wisconsin workers that they are prepared to use any and all means necessary to achieve their goals.
Now, with their first cynical attempt at union-busting tied up in the courts, Walker’s allies now say they’re ready to add the rights-stripping measures to the state budget now flying through the legislature.
Reintroducing plans to take bargaining rights away from workers into Scott Walker’s fatally-flawed state budget would consolidate Walker’s attacks on Wisconsin’s middle class into a single, horrific piece of legislation.  Scott Walker’s budget:
  • Raises costs in health care and food assistance programs that are relied upon by 1.2 million workers, unemployed, retired and disabled people in Wisconsin
  • Breaks up and corporatizes the UW System, raising tuition and threatening closure of campuses
  • Guts the ability of Wisconsin Technical Colleges to prepare and retrain working people
  • Eliminates advanced placement and science and technology course in schools
  • Rolls back recycling and conservation programs throughout Wisconsin
Despite all of this, Scott Walker’s fatally-flawed budget still has plenty of room for gifts for his dearest friends.  Containing $200 million of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in giveaways to his largest donors, Walker’s budget is a bonanza for the donors and corporate lobbyists who surely wrote it.
The legislature must reject this horrifying budget and start over.  The attacks on working families, seniors, students, the poor, and the environment and our rights must end.  Join We Are Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Wave at the State Capitol at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 14, because our fight continues and we will not be silenced. Join us.  The event on Facebook. 

Scott Walker and his Corporate Puppeteers.

It’s been a cold spring here in Madison.  Just about every rally I’ve been a part of, it seems to have been freezing, snowing and/or raining.  Surprisingly, the weather looked promising for the May Day, or International Workers Day, rally that would begin with speakers in Brittingham Park, involve a March to the State Capitol, and end with additional speakers on the Capitol steps.  Seemed like a great day to load my son Sal into the bike trailer and set out on a bit of an adventure.

Sal in his Chariot about to head out to the rally.

Before leaving the house, I decided to wear my Italian National Football team jacket in recognition of my own immigrant ancestry; My grandparents had come from Comune di Loreto Aprutino in Italy.  There is also an important Italian connection with Brittingham Park, as Italian immigrants used to have annual family picnics there, on the shore of Monona bay.  The park happens to be adjacent to the Greenbush neighborhood which was once the heart and soul of Madison’s Italian community. Sadly, under the guise of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960’s, the Greenbush neighborhood was bulldozed to make way for public housing and hospitals. All of the Italians and African Americans who adored the neighborhood were relocated elsewhere. One of the only remaining remnants of the old ‘Bush is the Italian Workmans Club building, or properly, “Club Lavoratori Italiani Siclilia”. I’m proud to be a member of the council and active in this organization that has continually served the community since 1912.  Anyway, I’m not that far removed from my own familial immigrant past so I feel a particular kinship with current immigrants and their desire for the same opportunities afforded to my family.

So Sal and I pack up and happily hit the road on this beautiful sunny day…and run smack into 30 mph headwinds!  Anyone who has a pulled a bike trailer with a 34 lb 3-year-old and all his “stuff” knows that this was not an easy ride.  We eventually arrive despite the best efforts of the wind to keep us away, and notice that the turnout is pretty impressive, but nowhere near the 100 thousand strong crowd that marched in Milwaukee with National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. There is a solid mix of folks associated with the Immigrant Workers Union, Professional and Labor Unions, families with small children, police, teachers and activists. The main message of the rally is:

A Just Taxation System where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share!
Living Wage Jobs!
The Right to Collectively Organize and Bargain!
Quality, Affordable Public Education!
Instate Tuition for Undocumented Students!
Quality and Affordable Healthcare for All!
Protection of our Environment!
Access to Healthy Food and Quality Housing!
A Secure Retirement!
No Arizona-style Anti-Immigrant Laws!

A pretty broad spectrum of people speak to the issues including Ben Manski from Liberty Tree, Jim Cavanaugh-President of the South Central Federation of Labor, Will Williams- Madison area Peace Coalition and Ibed Cisneros- Workers United.  I recognize many people in the crowd and chat with folks about some upcoming democracy-building activities we’re working on.  Some quotes from the speakers:

“The ‘divide and conquer’ mentality must not stand,” Andy Heidt, a union leader and candidate for State Assembly said. he then led a familiar chant –  “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

“Your issue is my issue,” Will Williams of the Madison Area Peace Coalition stated. “We’re fighting not just for immigrants or for the unions, we’re fighting for freedom.”

Marching up West Washington Avenue to the State Capitol.

The march begins and off we go accompanied by the sound of drums, chants and other instruments.  I connect with Ben and Sarah Manski and Andy Heidt who is running for the 48th District Assembly seat.  We march together, chatting about future plans and current events surrounding the Wisconsin Uprising while carrying the  Wisconsin Wave banner.  My son Sal is excited to be in the “parade” and is very curious about all the activity around him. Traffic is now backed up quite a bit as a couple thousand people have arrived to participate in the march. We reach the capitol and the wind is so strong that voices from the PA system  are carried away. We can’t get close enough because of our bike and trailer.  Sal says he wants a treat, so we walk over to State Street, buy some popcorn, sit on a bench and have a snack while enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and each others company.  I ask him if he had fun today.   He says “We had a very busy day daddy!  I had fun fighting the bad man in the capitol!” At first this seems funny.  Then the realization sets in that my three-year-old pretty much thinks all this stuff going on is the new state of normal. That to him, we always protest, we always fight.  When I was a kid I had no clue about the War In Vietnam and only a vague memory of Iran seizing US hostages.  Now I find myself growing angry that it has come to this; that Governor Walker and a radicalized right wing assembly/senate has given me no choice but to expend time and energy resisting the corporatization of the State that I truly love.  I wonder what memories my son will have of this time, and how participating in these events will shape his future. I am glad that we can participate together though, and share these experiences.

Father and Son on State Street after the rally.

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Voter ID

UPDATE: May 7,  The LaCrosse County DA has asked the Onalaska, WI Police Department to investigate. A detective has been assigned to the case. 

Madison, WI. During election season in Wisconsin it is common for legislative staffers to take a leave of absence and work on campaigns around the state.  For a couple of months they are assigned to a candidate who may not live in their home district, and in many cases, act as campaign managers.

In November of 2010 a republican legislative staffer, who in the past has worked for Rep. Mike Huebsch(Now DOA Secretary) and currently works for Rep. Warren Petryk, was assigned to the Dennis Clinard campaign in LaCrosse, WI.  This staffer owns a home in Madison where she has lived for several years.

On election day, Nov. 2nd, 2010, she posted on Facebook that she “just voted for Walker, Kapanke, Huebsch, Johnson and Van Hollen. Go Team!”.   Wait a minute…Kapanke? Onalaska Wisconsin?

Edited version of FB conversation to protect identity of participants. M is the subject.

But she lives in Madison, not Onalaska.  Her statement caught my attention because I wondered how someone who resides in Madison could vote in a district over 100 miles from their primary residence.   Good question, right? Especially since Governor Walker and our Republican State Legislature, her colleagues,  are making so much noise about fair elections and pushing a mean-spirited Voter ID bill that has the very real possibility of disenfranchising thousands of seniors, students and minorities in order to facilitate the creation of a permanent conservative majority.

The Wisconsin Voter ID Bill, or AB 7,  is set to become one of the most restrictive Voter ID bills in the nation for its special crackdown on students. If it passes, in 2012 voters will need to produce a drivers license, a state ID, a passport or naturalization papers, a military ID or Native American tribal ID in order to vote. A student ID would no longer be an acceptable form of identification.  It will make it difficult for out-of-state students to vote on their college campuses where they live nine months out of the year.

I happen to be a Facebook friend of the wandering Republican legislative staffer in question.  Back in November when she posted the information, I called her on it. She asserted that she “was living there”.  Not true.  She was temporarily residing in Onalaska knowing that she would be returning to Madison the day after the elections as evidenced by her additional facebook post; “Will finally be home in approx. 16 hours! Watch out Lake Point!”  Watch out indeed.

Here is a link to the Wisconsin State Elections Handbook. The following is excerpted from pages 37 and 38:

2. Temporary Absence.
a. Residency is not lost when a person leaves home and goes to another
country, state, county, town, village, or ward temporarily with intent
to return home. Residency cannot be established in any ward, town,
village or city in this state while living there temporarily.

This activity begs the question:  Is it common for GOP staffers to vote in districts where they are temporarily working on campaigns in order to give a little boost to their candidate?  This is what absentee ballots are designed for. In light of recent extremely close contests,  such as the 163 vote victory of  Rep. Randy Hopper over Democrat Jessica King, is it conceivable  that a “Mobile GOP Voting Strike Force” could potentially sway elections? What stops a large corporation, say, Koch Industries, from subsidizing apartments for a month or so where folks could claim residency in critical state elections.  That scenario might sound a bit far fetched, but is it possible? Sure.

Before the GOP endeavors to disenfranchise voters with this bill, perhaps they should police their own operatives to make sure they remember where they reside at election time.

L to R, Tag Evers, Jon Langford, Ben Manski and Patrick DePula

How do you know it might be time to take a break from the revolution? You come home from work late, wife and child are sleeping, you pour yourself a glass of 2nd tier scotch and make a Parmesan/Sriracha omelette with a couple of Hebrew National hotdogs on the side. Yeah, need to go grocery shopping and remember that I’ve got a little one to spend some time with.

So…It’s been a long week, culminating in one of the most incredible events I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve gone from being a participant, to acquiring press credentials, to helping organize one of the best rallies against corporate greed and GOP money politics yet.

Here’s how it went down.

Last Thursday, I was eating a hasty lunch and perusing the interwebs for information about rallies scheduled for the coming weekend. Not much information at all. I had ran into my friend Tag Evers, when I gained access to the capitol with my handy Mudflats press pass. And something he said struck a chord: “We must hold the Capitol Square. It is symbolic of the larger movement.” So, that said, I created an event on Facebook and called it, rather generically, “The Largest Rally Yet against Scott Walker and The Budget Despair Bill”. I simply hoped to encourage folks to head downtown and keep the pressure on. I had no Idea that I had just set the machinery in motion that would ultimately lead to shaking Michael Moore’s hand just 36 hours later.

Patrick DePula and Michael Moore.

After making the post, I focused on work for the rest of the day. Right before I left, I signed into Facebook and realized I had 27 messages about the “rally” with questions such as “are you bussing from Milwaukee?” “Who are the speakers?”, “Do you have a sound system”? Then I noticed that there were thousands of people RSVPing. So I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to pull a program together.

Later that night I ended up at Fair Trade Coffee, deep in conversation with Tag Evers, Activist Concert Promoter, and Ben Manski,  Director of The Liberty Tree Foundation. Ben’s wife Sarah was also present; another indispensable organizer. We decided to put something together under the umbrella of Wisconsin Wave, a group consisting of labor unions and social and economic justice organizations. Tag discussed artists that might be interested, and those that he’d already been in contact with. Ben, Sarah and I discussed potential speakers and a framework. At around 11 pm we broke and all went home. Just as I was walking in the door I received a text from Tag that Michelle Shocked had confirmed. Awesome.

Friday morning I rush to work and try to get as much done as possible and then go about booking a flight and hotel for Michelle Shocked and other logistics related things, such as applying for the necessary permits. Of course, right while I’m booking the best priced flight for Michelle from LAX to ORD, the internet in the office crashes, hard. Thankfully I have an air-card that I was able to use to complete the transaction. Finally, airfare is paid for. We’re committed. And I still don’t have the permit. I finally received a call from the capitol police at 7 pm telling me that the permit was approved.

We decide to meet at 9 pm at The Orpheum in order to finalize our plans for Saturday. By now, over 30,000 people have been invited to the rally with thousands responding. And we haven’t even announced the speakers or musical guests yet!

So late Friday, we finally send out a press release. It includes Michelle Shocked, Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford, Vo5, Mayor Dave, Congresswoman Baldwin, and a host of other community activists. What makes this rally different, is that we’re deviating a bit from the union message. We’re now talking about how the GOP/Walker bill is hurting everyone in Wisconsin, except the handful of rich folks that Scott Walker loves to pander to.

RSVPs on Facebook are now coming in at a rate of 150 per hour. We finally break late Friday night after dividing up some tasks and ultimately try to get a few hours of sleep. Load in is at 8 am, Saturday.

Meanwhile, all hell is breaking loose at the capitol. The doors are breached, and protesters rush the building only to be stopped by police next to the first set of stairs. Fox news also pulls out of town, most likely because they can’t go on air without loud chants of “Fox Lies!” No matter, because they DO lie. Has anyone seen the infamous Wisconsin Palm Tree video? The final holdouts leave the building, and the Department Of Administration promises to comply with the court order to return to the same security condition the capitol was in before the protests began.

Saturday Morning comes, and I need to run my son 44 miles south of Madison so my parents can watch him while I engage in what will become one of the biggest rallies yet.

I get back to Madison at about 10:30, drop off a tent and table by the stage, then meet with volunteers at The Majestic Theater. After a briefing by Adam, Wisconsin Waves coordinator, we break to the capitol, one block away, and get things ready.

12:05 arrives and we are missing a couple of guests. We scramble to call them and get them to the stage. Everyone finally shows up and we start. Speakers are phenomenal and the crowd roars. Finally,Ryan Bingham takes the stage and with a slightly gravely, smoked voice starts singing “The Times, They are A Changin’” by Bob Dylan. Amazing performance. Hardly a dry eye within 400 yards of the stage. At about 12:30, we receive a call that Michael Moore is deplaning and wants to speak at our rally. We enthusiastically agree!

Ryan Bingham, Wisconsin Wave rally, 3/05/2011

All of our speakers are great. We have folks from the Sierra Club, Family Farm Defenders, Hmong groups, labor, student groups – truly a diverse collective. Then Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and former mayor Paul Soglin share the stage, and discuss how though they may be political opponents, running for the same seat, they are united against the corporatization of Wisconsin. Michelle Shocked then performs and is amazing. She sounds like a Wisconsin Native and has such an awareness of what is going on in our beloved state.

Michelle Shocked

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Mayor Paul Soglin

At about 2 pm Michael Moore shows up in a procession with firefighters, and the Daily Beast Editor who crank called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and takes over for the next 30 minutes. He gives an incredibly inspiring speech about how we’ve all had enough! And about how we’ve been fleeced by corporations and the top 400 most wealthy individuals in the country. He also repeatedly praises the Wisconsin Senators who fled to Illinois. Many rousing cheers reverberate around the capitol square. When I stood on the stage I could see people all the way down King Street. Easily 35,000 people were gathered.

Michael Moore Arrives

Michael Moore addresses the protestors.

Michael winds down and we hear from Tammy Baldwin who poignantly offers that we are all in the fight of our lives, as she details proposed cuts to state and federal budgets that will certainly negatively impact working Wisconsin families.

US Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Finally, Jon Langford, of the Mekons plays Union Made. Great song, great response by the crowd. When his full set is through, Ben, Tag and I join him on stage and we sing “Solidarity Forever” as one of the strangest boy bands in history.

Who would have thought that my Facebook post would have turned into the “We are Wisconsin!” rally featuring Michael Moore, Michelle Shocked, Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Dave, Paul Soglin, and a host of others. But we pulled it off, printed t-shirts over-night, and managed to collect enough donations to pay for the equipment and other expenses.

But what is becoming completely evident, is that this is no longer a protest. This is a movement. What the mainstream media fails to discuss is that this is a homegrown phenomenon. It’s no longer solely about unions. The right wing has succeeded in radicalizing the middle class, and we won’t stop until we’ve recalled them all.

Patrick DePula
Madison, WI
for TheMudflats.net

Twitter. Facebook. 

[Photos courtesy of Phil Ejercito. See more of his photos from the event  HERE]

“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” Democratic Sen. Mark Miller said in a statement. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.” 

Police Mustering on Second Floor

MADISON, WI. Thousands of angry citizens stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol this evening when the Republican Senate, after removing fiscal items from the original bill, passed legislation that will strip public unions of most of their collective bargaining rights and require employees to pay 8% more toward their health insurance and and a greater share of their pensions.    Earlier today State Senator  and majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), appeared on Fox news admitting that the end game had always been to marginalize labor unions in order to defeat Obama in 2012.  Hey Scott, since when is it the job of the state senate to help a presidential candidate win?  And just last week Scott Walker was adamantly explaining that collective bargaining was a fiscal issue. But suddenly it isn’t, or it was…

Protestors Inside the Capitol

Hundreds of cars circled the capitol honking their horns in support while the crowd grew seemingly by the minute.  Teamsters in their trucks were handing out American Flags, and obviously had some sort of train whistle installed in one of their vehicles.  Gone was the relatively easy going attitude of the crowd that had become a hallmark over the last several weeks. It had been replaced by anger, outrage and utter disbelief.While walking around the Capitol, I ran into an old friend who told me that GOP senators were now holed up in the Inn on the Park across the square.  So we walked over there, and sure enough the camera around my neck caught their attention when we walked into the bar.  We tweeted and facebooked the info and within minutes, protesting firefighters showed up who were quite angry. Ultimately, the republicans fled from the bar to their rooms.

Inside the Rotunda- Mass Protest Rally.

Heading back to the capitol we noticed the doors were wide open allowing easy entry to the building.  As we are making our way to the rotunda it becomes obvious that there are no police in sight. We reach the press office where I’m able to obtain today’s pass. It is clear that this is one of the biggest crowds to occupy the building yet.  There are constant reminders over  the PA system that “the capitol is closed, please leave”. No one is paying the messages any mind.  It is now clear that all the police have retreated to the second and third floors.  One semi-official estimate is that there is 8,000 people gathered under the dome, while thousands more march outside.  The crowd is a mix of teachers, union members, college students, and every day folks who have finally had it.

At about 10:30 pm, I enter the press office and find Tim Donovan, spokesperson for the Department of Administration and Capitol Police giving an impromptu press conference. Mr. Donovan states that “there will be a large number, a significantly larger amount, of law enforcement at the capitol.”  Another reporter asks if he was informed ahead of time about the surprise vote. He answers “yes, I was told at about 5-ish and we tried to have more law enforcement on hand, obviously not enough”. Finally, I ask “Have you been in touch with the National Guard today?” Mr. Donovan responds with “Yes, the National Guard provides emergency law enforcement assistance, and in that capacity, yes, we have had discussions with them, but as far as being on alert goes, that’s a question for the governor”.   He then exits.

Back in the rotunda, things are getting louder, drums are beating, and the police are trying to deny access to the second floor.  Lound chants of “Let us up” reverberate through the building, and people start handling supplies up to the folks on the stairs behind the police officers.  At one point the crows learns that stairs on the other side of the building are unguarded, and there is a rush up them, to the second floor.  It appears as if some of the occupiers are now digging in for the night.

Folks, that’s what happened this evening.  The crowd peacefully took control of the Wisconsin State Capitol by overwhelming the police.  This seems to be without recent precedent in American politics.  The vote will now go to the assembly tomorrow(today) at 11:00 am.  There’s much talk about a general strike and plenty of rumors taking on lives of their own.  I’ll have more updates tomorrow, but for now, good night.

Patrick DePula
Originally posted to http://www.themudflats.net