Posts Tagged ‘Solidarity’

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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Union Worker Standing Strong during one of the First Mass Protests.

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”.

Volunteer Staffed Dispensary inside Wisconsin State Capitol

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.

Tag Evers, Activist Music Promotor - Addresses the Protestors.

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.

WI State Representatives see Constituents Outside During Lockdown.

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”.

Massive Police Presence

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!

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Democratic State Representatives Meet With Constituents Outside During Lockdown