I’m going to say 100,000. I see reports of “over 85,000” but as I saw no helicopters flying overhead, meaning we had no professional estimates, the evaluation by someone who’s been to every single historic Saturday labor rally in Madison, Wisconsin is good as any. I spent the day at Madison, Wisconsin’s largest rally yesterday. I wanted to do this piece when I got home, but the combination of walking on concrete, the exhileration of it all, and standing in the wind for nearly 7 hours did me in. As happens on every day I go to a rally, I fell asleep on the couch in the middle of trying to write or post photos. Now I have to get ready to play music for church. This will be what it will be. Assume more to come in the afternoon.
Fifty tractors embarked from the Alliant Energy Center to the Isthmus, driving down John Nolen Drive and ultimately climbing the Hamilton Street hill to the Capitol. The west wind rushing up Hamilton had an almost clear shot at us off of Lake Mendota, visible below. I ducked into a doorway to wait and was joined by a couple from Janesville. They said that former UAW workers who’d worked at the now defunct Suburban plant come as often as they can. We had to wait perhaps an unbearable 30 minutes. When the farmers did come, the crowd met them with the cheers you’d expect but also a kind of fascination and papparazzi-like snapping of cameras and whirring of video.
Not only were these tractors on the Capitol square, they were vintage, they were being driven by small farmers, and this is the site of the nation’s largest local weekly food market. Protesters rushed up to shake hands, saying “Thank you”.
Several women brought food to gift to tractor drivers-an act that I found moving for its simplicity and intimacy. As is often the case, I got separated from Mike while I dashed around recording audio and photographing things. He later said he felt so moved by what we witnessed – this summit of thanks and solidarity-connection between these urban and rural people – that he had to hold back tears.
I spoke for a moment with John Peck of Family Farm Defenders about why the farmers were here. There is one fact he stated which should be easy for you to remember and should cause you to reflect: 1 in 7 farmers in Wisconsin is using Badgercare, a healthcare program for the working poor that Walker’s legislation destroys.
The Dem14 Press Conference
This occurred at the Monona Terrace. I do not have “press credentials”. The reason I got into this tightly guarded event is that my blogger friend Steve Hanson of Uppity Wisconsin is great fan of Senator Kathleen Vinehout. He’d been invited but couldn’t make it, and so asked if I could come. In the chaos of the past 24 hours, though a confirmation was made, the men at the front didn’t get me on “the list”. I was nearly resigned to leaving when Senator Vinehout’s staff chief Lisa came out and said “Oh sure. Come in”
Once in I scrambled to be ready but I’d gotten in so late I forgot to take my coat off since shortly thereafter, the Senators came out.
How asinine the press was, my question to Lena Taylor, Marching with the Dem14 and photos, Audio from the crowd, Brief interview with Jon Erpenbach, Reflections on leaving. And of course, more photos.