Originally posted: 3/2/11 Appeared at http://www.themudflats.net
(Madison, WI)It’s a community called Rotundaville. It boasts a medical clinic/dispensary manned by capable folks who know first aid, a food preparation/pantry area, a communal charging station for electronics, its own Facebook page, and even a family respite center. It’s a village unto its own that functions 24 hours per day, under the persistently glowing lights inside the capitol dome. And it is home to an eclectic group of dedicated volunteers who care for the sick, provide food, coordinate cleaning crews, and most importantly, occupy this normally staid symbol of Wisconsin State government in protest of Governor Scott Walker’s mean-spirited and unfair “Budget Repair Bill”.
For two weeks now the State capitol has been continually occupied by a diverse group of people while tens of thousands of angry citizens parade around the square in opposition to all things Walker. Today I was able to gain access and experience first hand what’s been going on inside.
While approaching the building at 4:30pm from the King Street side, a dedicated crowd of about 300 people were waiting in line to gain access to the building. An impromptu rally had begun with the ever present megaphones. I had this passing thought that someone should call Radio Shack and see if there was a sudden uptick in megaphone sales that soon dissipated when I noticed that the assembly democrats had MOVED THEIR DESKS OUTSIDE and were conducting the people’s business in 30-degree Wisconsin winter weather.
Why? Because it is becoming nearly impossible for representatives to meet with their constituents inside the building. Not so for right- to-life lobbyists that share the Governor’s agenda.
Matt Sande, of Pro-Life Wisconsin manages to gain entry in just under 8 minutes while regular citizens wait in line for hours. Furthermore, during Walker’s budget address, it appears that he may have allowed his supporters alone to access the Capitol via tunnels from the Risser Justice building located nearby. Madison City Councilman Bryon Egon snapped this photo of State Division of Criminal Investigation agents guarding what they say is a “storm shelter. ” Well, Councilman Eagon saw Mrs. Walker enter the “Storm Shelter”.
While Walker’s cronies were freely entering the capitol, a hearing was underway regarding a court order issued by Judge Moeser to open the capitol completely to the public in accordance with the Wisconsin State Constitution. Of course, the Walker administration ignored the order and continued to severely and unconstitutionally restrict access. The hearing will continue through Thursday. Today, even the Honorable Dave Obey, former 21-term congressional representative from Wisconsin’s 7th District, was denied access to the capitol for the first time in 50 years. He went on to call Walker a “political bully”.
Okay, I’m rambling a bit. Upon entering the capitol, I immediately noticed Representative Brett Hulsey talking to members of the press. We exchanged some pleasantries and he dramatically announced “Welcome to our new police state!” And he was right. The police officers manning the building easily outnumbered the protesters by at least a 2:1 margin. Law Enforcement came from communities all across the state: Walworth and Trempeleau Counties, Prescott, Ellsworth, and a host of other small towns.
Interesting that Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney withdrew his deputies from the building while stating “My deputies will not be palace guards”. Kudos to Sheriff Mahoney for doing the right thing. Department of Administration Secretary Huebsch states that law enforcement costs are exceeding $5 million dollars. For what? I can’t see the justification in ordering 300 police officers to guard what appears to be 80 peaceful and respectful protesters inside the building. So much for the King of Frugality that Walker would have you believe he is.
It’s clear that we’re entering some seriously troubling times; The capitol is locked down with hundreds of police officers, The poorly thought out “Budget Repair Bill” is rife with attacks on Wisconsin families while further rewarding corporate interests. The Capitol square is overrun with angry residents every single day in a sustained protest the likes of which has not been seen since the War in Vietnam. Yet, the emperor still isn’t listening. Neither is the GOP majority. Together they continue to run roughshod over the rights of the very citizens they were elected to represent.
Amazingly, the folks inside the dome remain upbeat and they realize that they are a part of history and engaged in something significant. It’s not just college kids, but parents, teachers, firefighters, cops, iron workers and others that are staying overnight and keeping vigil. They are desperately trying to keep the Wisconsin Idea alive and would most likely be making Bob LaFollette proud if he were still around.
It’s not about Union busting, fiscal responsibility, the budget, or anything else but power. And making damn sure that the ruling class remains the GOP by eviscerating unions and pitting the middle class against each other. What Walker didn’t count on was Madison. Last Friday he was politely refused service at a new local restaurant because the other patrons were booing so loudly. He was asked to leave much to the amusement of nearly everyone in town. Beyond that, Madison is a special place with a population that basically exists within one degree of separation between everyone. A simple Facebook post that calls folks to action at the capitol will result in five thousand people showing up by 5 o’clock. Give it another hour, and you’ll have 10,000. Quite remarkable in a city of 227,000. We’re a compassionate lot here, supporting many joint causes and with many overlapping social circles, hence our strength. We will continue to resist because there’s no other choice. We’re proud of our city and won’t falter. We’ll win together.
One can only imagine what tomorrow will bring, but until then, good night!