Photos, Tidier notes, and Twitterati from the “Organizing the Occupation” panel

Photos from the NOI 5/12 “Organizing the Occupation” panel at UW Madison, with my notes. Reminder:  I am usually only paraphrasing the speakers. Skip to the end for the twitterati contact info.

I’ve heard NOI is making a video of the panel available later this week.

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My notes from “Organizing the Occupation”:


Tom Foley is introducing the concept of Scott Walker’s entry into the political scene of WI right now. We are in the Union South Bldg. of University of Wisconsin at Madison in Wisconsin

On the panel is Melissa Ryan, New Media Director of NOI. Also here is Senator Larson, Emily Mills, Chris Liebenthal, and Max Love. Emily Mills is a blogger with Isthmus, a co-editor of blog dane101, and a musician. Chris Liebenthal is a Milwaukee County social worker, activist, and avid blogger at multiple locations –  though he’s best known as the man behind Cognitive Dissidence.  Max Love is a UW student who helped organize protest and occupation at the Capitol in Madison. He’s with Badger Impact and he’s blogging the unflagging protest of UW Madison’s community at tenacious transparency. Moderating is Tom Foley who blogs at  illusory tenant with a mix of biting humor and legal acumen.

Senator Chris Larson was elected in Fall of 2010 and was amongst the 14 Wisconsin Senators – the “Dem 14” or “Fab 14” – who left for Illinois on February 17, 2011 to halt action on Scott Walker’s regressive “Wisconsin Act 10”.


Sen. Larson: We took a page from Egypt in use of technology. …. you can literally check on your politicians’ facts while they are speaking  [happened last night while a rep in the Assembly said that 90% of all UW River Falls students have a drivers’ license when in fact almost the opposite is true- I was watching, tweeted a correction out – that got retweeted – – helped to override, I hope ]

Sen Larson reminds us that there are many peeps that are not in your own social media sphere – he says don’t just bring the smart phone, also bring a clipboard – “there is no substitute for shoe leather politics – for getting out and talking to people face to face”  [ he’s got me thinking of the 2008 clipboard carriers of the Obama campaign, OFA]

This is a constant work in progress…. We are each leaders. … We have created a new generation of leaders influenced by what has happened at the Capitol.. the same way Gaylord Nelson did, Fighting Bob did, so will we.


5:28 pm

Melissa Ryan – Feb 11 – Feb 14  was a very crucial time in organizing.  Remarked on reporters just loving the twitterverse  She had two lists – one for the public and one for the reporters…at first organizers thought that there would be 1 or 2 nights of stayng over at the Capitol . [we laugh]  It was a city in the capitol – there was a charging station – a place to put your laptop. …The Koch call: it was a gift from above. It is one thing to talk about a corrupt politician but it’s another thing to have them hand you something like the Koch call.  …The next day, 1/2 of the signs in the protests had the Koch reference.



Emily  Mills – Doing the dane101 blog for 6 yrs. She was tipped off on Feb 10–my fellow Isthmus blogger Dave Blaska was tipped off about the collective bargaining rights being stripped in the bill and mentioned it. Nobody knew how big it was going to become.  I went to the February 14th student protest and that became the official day 1 …I spent most of Feb/March living in the Capitol. I was down there day in and day out I was using a standard cell phone..I couldn’t bring a laptop – I desperately tried to tweet everything coming out. Had 600 followers, then got to 1500…people were craving information about what was going on – was getting contacts from UK, Australia, Canada, they said “thanks – we can’t get this info anywhere else”

It was gratifying to get these emails from people – it was an easy way to communicate w. people on the grnd. especially when lockdowns were going on – you could find out what window was open, which door was open,  – had to break down and get a smart phone.

I’d like to talk about this more – – they are passing a telecom bill – which wld. mean that companies that provide internet wld. not be regulated by the state anymore – could decide that a rural area is not worth covering. We did the rural electrification act because companies were not doing that on their own. …some of most popular populations in our state – they do not have cell phones/internet.

[My note: In my opinion day 1 was 2/11. Appleton teachers responded to Walker’s announcement of what eventually became Wisconsin Act 10. They  assembled in the 100’s outside of the bldg. Walker was in as soon as they could physically do so. I do think of this not as “a Madison thing”, but as a statewide Wisconsin wave of protest with Madison getting much more media coverage -becoming the starring location.]



Chris Liebenthal – I was frustrated with news/views out of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was invited to go onto another person’s site, eventually went to 3 sites. I was Countering “squakers”: Patrick McIlheran, Charlie Sykes.  I noticed a change from Nov. of 2010 to today. There’s a change in how I am approaching these tools. It used to be I’d work off of a journal story – I don’t even look at those Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories anymore. The people that were on the ground everyday [at the protests] – showing up in rain, snow, sleet, whatever… they where telling their stories.. I thought it most important to showcase what the people were saying in the streets. I use 90% social media as my information resources. You are reporting it live. Granted there will be a slant to it. The righteous anger is what people are feeling  so there will be a slant to it…  It’s not my work, I’m an echo chamber for the 100’s of people I follow on twitter, my friends on facebook–these are the sources that we need to follow we do fact checks on politicians and fact checks on mainstream media. It’s so important to have people on the ground.

Chris says “One of my favorite stories…” – he went to a fundraiser for Sean Duffy – had 5,000 people show up to protest and there were only 200 people at the fundraiser. “Thank you for letting me ride your coattails as you do the hard work.”


Max Love – My participation brings this to other people – many people do not have facebook and twitter. My role is to be in the Capitol, spread the news – I do use multiple platforms –  tumbler posterous, twitter facebook, other forms of iphone apps

[phone goes off]..and I don’t think that’s rude at all! We created Badger Impact – a site, a twitter – it informed students how the bill would inform them – social media is very targeted – Defend Wisconsin is great but a lot of that info. is not pertinent to students – we do twitter/facebook/site/photos that is just for students. Online media and mainstream media did not have that.

[my insert here – – the Defend Wisconsin account was awesome!]

One reason we made the DefendWisconsin twitter account was we really didn’t know what would happen at the Capitol- even without a smartphone you can do an SMS message. Many have unlimited texting. .. (Max uses 7 or 8 twitter accounts. He confesses twitter addiction.) We wanted to know if there were safety concerns (the original reason they thought the twitter account was important)… there weren’t any safety concerns after all. But the twitter account did become very useful for getting news out.

Max emphasized that the integrity of each twitter or facebook identity is constantly being evaluated. He noted that having multiple people handle an account with little guidance can lead to quality control problems, such as accidental personal tweets and unreliable reports passed on as official news.


6:12  Tom Foley AKA@ illusory_tenant said that Judge Sumi’s case is air tight regarding the open meetings law – He noted that it is on June 6, 2011 that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will agree to hear oral arguments re. Judge Sumi’s halt of publication of Wisconsin Act 10.



Emily Mills – It’s usually hard to keep the Left of Center “on message” and focused. … these were much more diverse crowds…not just white people. People from all over the state. They had a common cause.. it was not run by just 1 party or 1 organization. Not to disrespect any 1 group – but there is something important to learn from this – the reason that this works is the crowdsourcing. That was what was amazing to see. ..As a reporter I got my info. from all of these different people. I think this confused national news outlets. …There were attempts to say it was only 1 group, however, the overwhelming message was that it was a variety of voices. ..It combated a national and confused narrative. ..I’d like to see that continue.



Now discussing how to get to people that are not on the net – Chris Liebenthal says that there are many people who do not have net who are in unions – therefore the unions must use phone trees, but it still only takes an hour to get the message out. [he had a twitter question come in on that during the talk]

There was a protest of 2,000 people in Waupaca – – that protest doubled the size of the entire town.  A lot of us do become too dependent on social media. You can not beat the in-person politics.

A couple of yrs ago it was already obvious what Walker was doing to our county. We formed “Milwaukee County First” to help to counter that. We wanted to stop and hopefully reverse that damage. We found that social media was great but there are still thousands and 10’s of thousands of people that refer to the TV or paper or radio.  This is why we have regular meetings. Where we can relay this information. Set up phone trees.



Question for Sen Larson-How did social media keep you connected while you were in Illinois?

Senator Larson: We were listening to testimony. That drove it. The bill was announced on Friday, the bill was introduced on Tuesday, Dems kept it going [I think this refers to the public hearing]. By Wed night, the JFC was voting on it.   At the time, we thought he had gone too far, that Republicans were …people died for the 8 hr work day. Republicans also come from union families..we assumed they were going to stand up with us. .. It was an hour after we found it was going on a party line vote –  Senator Miller [the Democratic Party leader of Wisconsin’s Senators] asked us to meet at 6am off-site that day we left –

It was pushed by the people – it all shifted too when we left – we had to keep in touch some way. ..I became the news source for all of the senators.

[Next, describing leaving Wisconsin to halt Wisconsin Act 10]   I recall sitting in the lobby seeing @news3jessica [on twitter] and seeing that 10:30am tweet..we watched the news and saw twitter explode. It was the only way for me to keep in touch – it kept it going for us – we were separated. A lot of the Senators they are not as tech savvy – ….


Max Love – a lot of other political issues were left out – from here on we really need to work – How do we bring this to everybody? – A lot of students do not care – They do not wake up and read their twitter.


Woman in audience commenting and asking a question: What’s wonderful – you do not see the usual suspects – I see a very broad audience, a very broad set of people addressing the question of what went on… There are a lot of things – there is a provision in there [here I believe she is refering to Wisconsin Act 10] that will kill the most vulnerable populations among us – we are weak on engaging thosepeople -I’d like to hear about strategy – there was a group that picked up on the message “Kill the whole bill”

Also – though we have so much momentum – there is 1/3 of the state that is on the other side of the spectrum…I hear we have fractured families over this discord. How do we elevate this to new standards of civility..?

Emily Mills-We have the need to take care of our neighbors – the Paul Ryan Bill: these are things that are at the nitty gritty – cutting people off from their basic services – removing people frm their vote. In theory – if you cut rhetoric – cut the victimization, cut off  “rethuglicans” talk – I am sick of nasty nicknames – at this point what I would like to see happen is a willingness to not get tired – and commit to using social media and then talking to people in your family – see what they need – ask them what is your problem – take that info. – and see what’s in these bills- here’s what we can do in the opposite direction to make that better. Discuss basic issues of quality of life.


Sen Larson – I can not tell you the number of people who have taken out those clipboards to recall senators because they could not get an answer to their questions and could not talk to their Republican Senators and the people with those clipboards are [were?]  Republicans themselves.

Senator Larson emphasized the need to now engage in efforts to recall Republican Senators and defend Democratic Senators in Wisconsin. [Wisconsin will have multiple recall elections, likely, on July 12.]

One big omission:

In the thick of covering so much ground, I regret that we did not mention the immense on-the-ground protest work and social media savvy that WEAC provided to the Capitol protests- – so I’m noting it here. WEAC is the Wisconsin Education Association Council, a union representing approximately 98,000 public education employees.

More acknowledgements:

The panelists stated several times that many in the audience were just as worthy to discuss the use of social media in Wisconsin’s protests, being social media or blog stars in their own right.

I recall seeing @ScoutPrime from First Draft, several people from Democracy Addicts and Leftist Cocktail PartyJesse Russel from dane101.

Also there: Alex Hanna of UW Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association and the Social Media and Democracy research group.

Found out later that Jeremy Ryan of DefendingWisconsin was there along with John Hershberger [sorry I didn’t say “Hi” guys] Jeremy Ryan has stood front and center for free speech at the Capitol long after the crowds have dispersed, and I believe he’s been the most focused user of YouTube. (I’m looking to use it more too after learning YouTube gets about 20 times the action twitter does.)

I saw avid twitterite and activist @4shcrane who came from District 14.  I hope we Dane County peeps will return the favor and drive north to @4shcrane’s territory.  Fred Clark needs a hand against Republican Luther Olsen in a recall election this July.

The Twitterati

Panelist twitter handles:

Melissa Ryan: @MelissaRyan

Senator Chris Larson: @ChrisJLarson

Tom Foley: @illusory_tenant

Chris Liebenthal: @Cog_Dis

Emily Mills: @millbot

Max Love: @maxwelljohnlove

Additional twitterati I recall seeing there: @emd10s @theadingo@SeleneMSC @legaleagle @mwisniewski @sjzep @annaironside@ari_WISCslob @scoutprime @matt_t1@techpr @blissfulfun @educator4WI

And just some of the twitterati who retweeted and promoted the day’s dialog and/or my live-blogging. Thank you! @55Bentley @NatashaChart @Jane_W@RCdeWinter @SeleneMSC @ericas@hershinmad @gnarlytrombone@opticaldensity @jove1024 @PortiaABoulger@BleuZ00m @oakparkres @InMadison@Catballou @Curlysue2u2002 @missb62 @jove1024@jjinsf @Spudlovr @theadingo@V1ct0rCR0cc0 @ericming5 @babaoreilymike

I’m just about positive somebody didn’t make the list and is getting mad at me right now. 🙂  Just let me know where I flubbed and I can fix it- Thanks.




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