Thank you, Chief Erwin!

Thanks to Chief Erwin and his saber rattling, more than two hundred sign-wielding singers showed up today to sing in the People’s House.

As we have often done, we began by reading Article 1, Section 4, of the Wisconsin state constitution:

State Rep. Chris Taylor showed up and told us that she met with Chief Erwin and someone from the Department of Administration this morning. After they refused to give her specific information on what behavior is and isn’t acceptable in the Capitol building, they walked out of the meeting.

Rep. Peter Barca today posted a letter Rep. Taylor sent to Chief Erwin after the meeting regarding her still-unanswered questions:

When I asked about the specific conditions you were considering in determining whether an individual needed a permit or when making an arrest, you stated that these determinations were being made on a “case-by-case basis” and refused to articulate specific factors that would be considered. Instead, you and Ms. Coomer [from the DOA] recommended that anyone considering holding a sign call the Capitol police to inquire whether a permit would be needed. This gives me grave concern that the public is not being provided adequate notice about what conduct you are prohibiting and under what specific legal authority you are acting. Further, this subjective manner of making permitting and arrest determinations can easily lead to abuse, with the result being that constitutionally protected political speech is being improperly silenced.

Rep. Taylor also expressed gratitude that there are still courts that will act to protect citizens’ freedom of speech. She held up a copy of this week’s court ruling by Dane County Judge Frank Remington stating that § Adm. 2.07(2), prohibiting displays (under which the recent citations were issued), doesn’t apply to handheld signs, but rather only to freestanding exhibits.

Photo by Karen Kinsley

The atmosphere today was boisterous and jovial—it’s always great to see so many of our friends gathered together in the People’s House. But there was also a serious side to our signs and our singing and our presence. We highly value our right to free speech, and we’re willing to defend it when it’s threatened. The Capitol police have a duty to uphold the law, the law that guarantees that “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

So thank you again, Chief Erwin, for providing us with this occasion to sing with our friends in the People’s House, for reminding us of how precious our rights to free speech and free assembly are. Thank you for the opportunity to remind you, Governor Walker, and the people of Wisconsin that we’re still here. We’re still exercising our right to free speech, assembly, and petition. And we’re not going away anytime soon.

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Don’t miss the Progressive‘s take on today’s triumphant sing along.

Paying the Price for Free Speech

I have half-joked for decades that one of the items on my bucket list is to be arrested for civil disobedience. The civil rights movement and the anti-war protests happened while I was safely ensconced in junior high and high school. I got to college in time to see one lone streaker torpedo across campus. There I was, already a dyed-in-the-wool folkie, just in time to wave the glory days of folk music good-bye. I felt cheated.

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders . . . and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves . . . [and] the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem. —Howard Zinn

Hah! Little did I know that my timing was not so bad after all. Here I am—yes, a little worn around the edges—smack-dab in the middle of the Wisconsin Uprising, singing my heart out with the Solidarity Sing Along as many times a week as I can. There are some days I can feel the resonance so strongly that I begin to suspect that this is the moment I was born for and have been preparing for since those disappointingly quiet days in college.

The Solidarity Sing Along began the day after an illegal vote was taken in the Wisconsin State Senate to pass a bill destroying the rights of working people. Participants in the spontaneous event understood that their voices were no longer being heard or acknowledged through the formal political structures of the state. They were determined to not be silenced, however, and have continued to voice their opinions on the political issues of the day every single weekday for nearly eighteen months. —Rebecca Kemble, The Progressive Magazine

And now there’s serious trouble afoot. The new chief of the Capitol Police, David Erwin, is cracking down on free speech in the Capitol. Twelve practitioners of free speech have been arrested arrests have been made so far for holding signs without a permit.

If you have to ask permission from the government to protest the government, you don’t really have the right to protest the government!!! The federal and state constitutions are all the permits we need. —sign seen in the capitol this week

So today Friday September 7th at noon we’re singing, again, for free speech, for our friends who have been arrested and fined, for our rights and yours, for the rights of our children. We’re singing because freedom of speech is absolutely fundamental to democracy. Without it we are no more than cogs in the machine—no voice, no power, no access.

An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. —Mahatma Gandhi

Most of us will likely gather inside the rotunda, but a few may also gather outside under the tree on Carroll Street (south of the Lady Forward statue) as we have done on Fridays since June. Please come join us! Bring a friend! We’re asking for as much participation from our friends and fellow citizens as possible. Free speech needs you.

Attorneys affiliated with the Madison National Lawyers Guild stand ready to defend anyone who suffers arrest as the result of over-zealous enforcement of the Capitol access policy. Anyone who does suffer such an arrest should not argue with officers or even converse with them about their protest actions. Instead, protesters should do nothing more than ask officers why they are being arrested, ask what the charges are, immediately demand to speak to an attorney, and, if arraigned, plead not guilty. If possible, the protesters should notify someone who is not being arrested that they are being placed in custody so that this individual can contact the protest coordinator of the Madison National Lawyers Guild at 608-352-0138. The coordinator will then attempt to find legal representation for the person who has been arrested. —Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

As you did in February and March last year, come prepared to resist provocation and intimidation peaceably. It’s critically important to our cause that our conduct be above reproach.

When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you: pull your beard, flick your face to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.” —John Lennon

We’re also hoping for a large turnout on Monday. And we’ll continue every weekday at noon until Wisconsin gets better. (For news on whether we’re singing inside or out, check the Solidarity Sing Along Facebook page). We’re in this for the long haul. We’re not going away.

We are gentle, angry people, and we are singing, singing for our lives. —Holly Near

Fired Up! Reclaim Women’s Equality Day

Update: Rally at 4:30pm Monday, not at 1pm, as previously announced!

I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of the venomous anti-woman agenda of the Republican party, the leadership of which is more concerned about proving to the right-wing extremists controlling their party that they’re really as anti-abortion as it’s possible to be. It’s ridiculous to call them “pro-life” because they oppose abortion even to save a woman’s life. I don’t know what that is, but it sure as hell isn’t “pro-life.” It comes closer to pro-death.

The Republican anti-woman agenda includes denying women equal pay for equal work, aggressively going after Planned Parenthood and other women’s health care providers, outlawing abortion, and limiting access to contraceptives. Now all are agape at Todd Akin’s supposed slip, in which he says exactly what he means, reiterating the right-wing fantasy that in cases of “legitimate” rape a woman has the magical power to “shut the whole thing down” and prevent pregnancy. The obvious implication is that if you get pregnant from rape, it isn’t a “legitimate” rape. Whatever the hell that is.

Since then, Akin and every Republican running for office across the land have fallen all over themselves trying to back away from Akin’s callous remarks and what they reveal: the party’s deep-seated contempt for women. That’s what this is really all about. Women, who apparently lie about rape and are prone to hysteria, cannot be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies.

This message is brought to you by the toxic rape culture in which we live. The message is precisely the same as that of every rapist: “You don’t get to decide what happens to your own body. I do.”

Rep. Akin, you are seriously mistaken. You and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and all the other sad little members of the Republican misogynists’ club. Enough of you! Over ninety years ago the women of this country rose up and fought like hell for the right to vote and the right to hold public office. In the spirit of their fight and what they achieved, we are rising up too, for the sake of our daughters and sons, for the sake of our planet, for the sake of our democracy.

In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 of each year as “Women’s Equality Day.” Eager as we are to acknowledge all that our foremothers accomplished, we also recognize that we have a lot more work to do to gain women full equality and the respect they deserve.

On Monday, August 27, at 1pm 4:30pm, all of you women and the men who support you, join us on the west side of the Wisconsin State capitol in Madison for “Reclaim Women’s Equality Day.” After we gather, we’ll encircle the capitol in a live demonstration of our commitment to continue the work of our foremothers in ensuring women’s equality.

You members of the misogynist party, we’re putting you on notice. We’re fired up, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!

Update! Update! Update!

The time of the Reclaim Women’s Equality Day rally has been changed to 4:30pm on Monday. Please help spread the word!

Own Your Vote Rally Appleton, WI

About 40 people came to the early voting rally in Appleton, WI that started at City Park. Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber was on hand and gave a rousing speech. She reminded us of how important it was for us to get Wisconsin moving in the right direction again and put it on a much better path. Ryan Griffin spoke briefly after that. We then marched to City Hall to cast our votes. A good time was had by all. There were spontaneous chants of “show me what democracy looks like”, “this is what democracy looks like”, “Wisconsin needs Barreett” and “Wisconsin needs Mitchel” as we walked to city hall. Quite a few people honked in support.

We need everyone to get out and vote Walker out of office. Vote as if your democracy depends on it, because it does.

Below are some pictures and short videos from the rally:

Walker Protested at VFW in Appleton

Yesterday the soon to be former governor visited the V.F.W. in Appleton to sign a bill that helps military veterans. Of course, he was met with a good sized “welcoming committee”. It’s heartwarming for this wonk to know that they could get a pretty good sized crowd together on such short notice. Some people in the group estimated there were between 40 and 45 protesters present. I’ll take their word on it as I didn’t do a head count.

According to the Appleton Post Crescent, about 100 veterans and supporters turned out to witness him signing the bill. Read the Post-Crescent article for more information on this bill.

Walker arrived in a car this time, not the usual black SUV. One protester stated that he’s the “100 meter dash governor”. That observation not only made me chuckle, it seemed to be a fair assessment of what we saw. Walker really moves fast when he’s trying to get away from protesters.

An important point to remember is that people were there to protest Walker and his failed policies. They were not there to protest military veterans, in fact, quite a few people thanked the veterans for their service.

From the Post-Crescent article:

“About 25 Walker protesters gathered on sidewalks, bearing posters and pins. They yelled “Shame, shame!” as Walker came and went.
However, many protesters said they support the veterans bills — several clapped and thanked the veterans who walked past them — but they just don’t back the governor.”

There are a couple of amusing anecdotes from the protest. One veteran who was attending the event told a protester something to the effect of “I’m here to hear what the c***sucker has to say for himself”.

Another incident involved a passerby trying to yell something at the protesters. Unfortunately his teeth fell out as he was speaking so he couldn’t finish his thought. This caused the group to break into spontaneous giggles. This laughter was captured in the video below. I didn’t personally see that happen, but did hear chanting turn into laughter. It’s not too often serious chanting turns into guffaws. I’m happy to have caught that moment. The protesters may never know for sure if he was a Walker supporter because he was “silenced” when his teeth fell out. In my humble opinion no one should be silenced because they lack denture adhesive.

Any day is a good day to protest Walker and yesterday was no exception. Here are some pictures from the event.

Givin’ Mitt Shitt in Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Approximately 250 people assembled outside of Walker’s laughably named “Victory Center” in Fitchburg to give Mitt Romney some heck Saturday March 31st. Romney was visiting to do a few of his robocalls live and to stump for his presidential primary in Wisconsin.

The protesters were a mix of people who held signs like “Keep your Mitt(s) off Birth Control” and people with “Recall Walker” signs, or pro-union signs, or signs that referenced dogs [if you don’t know what the dog thing is about, try Dogs Against Romney ].

I did see Mitt Romney for the 1.25 seconds that he spent outside as he dashed from the door to an SUV.  I also saw Paul Ryan. They both waved at the crowd. In return the crowd booed, hissed, yelled “Mitt is Shitt” and “Ryan Sucks” and chanted “Recall Walker!”. After the convoy of SUVs and cop cars became full of its political cargo, they started to move out slowly and we yelled “shame”. I usually don’t like the “shame” yell. On this occasion I reveled in it. I think I was inspired by the presence of Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan who I am more familiar with than Romney.


Real dogs and one stuffed dog were in attendance with either special attire or  their car carriers or signs such as “I ride inside” or “Mutts against mitt!”

Ed drives away with his Mutts against Mitt display atop the car. Give Mitt Shitt protest in Fitchburg, WI March 31, 2012

A dog carrier on top of a car at an anti-Mitt Romney protest called Give Mitt Shitt Fitchburg, Wisconsin

 A dog wearing a Green Bay Packer jersey at the Give Mitt Shitt protest in Fitchburg, March 31 2012

Many got a chuckle out of the box sign below.   I asked the sign owner if she thought Mitt would even understand her slang. We laughed and discussed the real possibility that he has somebody on staff to help him with understanding the language of the commoners.

 Woman holds a sign above her head which says "Think outside my box" at a protest of Mitt Romney at a Scott Walker call center in Fitchburg, Wisconsin March 31, 2012.


I spoke to the patriarch of the Gadsen flag-wielding group below for a few minutes, asking him if he was in favor of Romney or Walker or Santorum. He replied that he is in favor of all of those men and for limited government and liberty. I pressed a little bit more to determine who he’s voting for on Tuesday in the GOP primary and all he would say is that Romney is the candidate expected to win –  not a ringing endorsement. I’d guess that 20 people in attendance were showing support for Romney or Walker.

 A family holds Gadsen flags at a Give Mitt Shitt rally in Fitchburg Wisconsin March 31, 2012.


Dignitaries in attendance included Assembly Rep. Chris Taylor, the DJ Sly of WTDY-FM,  a small group of Raging Grannies singers (who concluded their visit with a a round of “Solidarity Forever”), and Lisa Subeck of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. Rep. Kelda Helen Roys also attended and wrote a statement at the site Kelda for Congress.

Wisconsin Assembly Representative Chris Taylor speaks to the press at a rally against Mitt Romney in Fitchburg, Wisconsin March 31, 2012.
Wisconsin Assembly Representative Chris Taylor

I made a facebook event for the visit called “Give Mitt Shitt!” at the urging of Timothy Reilly.  A bit later I discovered that another event called “Keep your Mitts off our Birth Control!” was already organized by  NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.  I really did not intend to duplicate efforts but in the end, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have multiple facebook events that take a different spin on the same protest. It draws in different sets of people and therefore MORE people. The more the merrier!

For more on Mitt Romney’s flip-flop on women’s health issues see NARAL’s Romney page.

Visit NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin to stay up to date with the fight to preserve women’s rights and women’s access to reproductive rights in Wisconsin.

For more photos see my facebook album or NARAL’s.

Event date: March 31, 2012

Driving the Snakes out of Wisconsin

The video will start where the parade footage kicks in.

Almost everyone is familiar with how the original St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but how many people know that St. Patrick made a special visit to Fond du Lac last Saturday during their annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade? He came to “Drive the Snakes Out of Wisconsin” as part of a float entered by the grassroots group ACCESS (Area Concerned Citizens for Equality Strength and Success). Over 20 concerned, creative and highly motivated citizens took part in the float. A giant hat tip goes to Steve Hazell for his great video. It not only shows what happened at the parade, it shows some great footage from the protests last year at the capital. This video is another example of how creative, progressive people come from all over the state, not just Madison. It’s worth a watch or five.

Even though ACCESS is just starting out I anticipate they will be doing a lot of good things in their community.

Their mission statement is as follows:

The mission of ACCESS is to strengthen the community in order to be heard and hold elected officials accountable to the interests of working and middle class people. ACCESS promotes understanding through advocacy, education and public service.

Photos and Thoughts: Saturday’s Reclaim Wisconsin Rally

What are the odds that you’re going to just happen upon a cowbell vs. vuvuzuela competition? And what are the odds that at the same time you will just so happen to have a cowbell in hand?

Right. But that happened yesterday for me. Just one of the moments of absurd noisy joy that I experienced at the Reclaim Wisconsin March in Madison, Wisconsin. Going in I thought there was a much higher chance that either Peter Barca or Mahlon Mitchell would announce a run for office. Didn’t happen. But that’s why about – oh – maybe 300 people crowded around the Paisan’s building where the United Wisconsin office was doing its grand opening. This was one of the small rallies that would feed into the square and a mass of people numbering 35 to 65 thousand people depending on who you ask.

[nggallery id=26]

Of course that interfered with the speedy passage of cars in and out of the underground parking lot at the same site. But the situation was quickly resolved by John Nichols, of course, who was able to bellow with authoritative yet friendly volume for protesters to please let the vehicles pass through.

It was completely unlike that weekend rally 1 year ago right after the illegal passage of Wisconsin Act 10. Instead of shivering in a heavy snowfall wondering whether people would hold tight together to fight back, we got a light sunburn and could stand a little taller having turned in over 1 million signatures against Walker. Instead of only mourning the degradation of our state and hoping we had what it takes to take risks, on Saturday we could take heart in how courageous Wisconsinites have been and will remain.

We needed a rally in the sun. We deserved that balmy day.

After we heard from the Forward Marching Band, we heard Mahlon Mitchell, John Nichols and Peter Barca speak as people in the crowd occasionally broke in to respond to their statements with an emotional, “NO!”, or “YES!’, or “Right!”. A few times people began chanting “Run Barca Run!”:

After the speeches we embarked to the Capitol building and the cowbell I had for the first time became amplifiers for everybody’s chants with only small changes in the beat. I have to tell you it’s wonderful for a weak-voiced person like me to carry a Latin cowbell. It cuts through the low-level ruckus to deliver a clang beat on “What’s disgusting? UNION BUSTING!” “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” “Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go!”

I fell in with a group from SEIU who were mostly people of color. [Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU, was at the rally. Maybe marching nearby.] I also fell in with flag bearers and firemen and iron workers and grandmothers. The streets were solid with people.

Men and women alike were guffawing when they saw this small sign at a square across from US Bank:

I stood there for a few minutes to enjoy watching people stop, have their moment of laughter, and capture the joke with their own camera. In that moment they were sharing a laugh together at powerful men they’ve been cursing at alone.

That is ultimately a crucial message for any rally: you are not alone. In Wisconsin it is absolutely true. Despite inevitable disagreements over the how’s and when’s, there is a diverse coalition in solidarity to reclaim Wisconsin from the Tea Party.

I rounded the square and fell in with a group of 3 men drumming near the MTI table and then drifted to the street in front of the Veterans Museum to talk with Senator Mark Miller. That was quite a moment for this blogger: circumnavigating the Capitol square and coming upon one of the Dem 14 who was talking to a reader of this blog who’s been coming here “from the beginning”.

I then drifted to the top of State Street to gaze up at the flags whipping in the wind and the protesters covering the steps of that building we’ve called “Our House” and to listen to inspiring speakers like the organizer-candidate Lori Compas when my guy said, “Is it time to stop reminiscing now?”

I joked, “Are you trying to tell me to quit your reminiscing and get to work?”

I refused to wipe the smile off my face and furrow my brow. But you know what the answer has to be very shortly? Right.

In Appleton, Wisconsin on the Ice Glazed Highway with the Overpass Light Brigade

From the Daily Kos blogger noise of rain comes another perfect post.

It is so heartening for me to know that noise of rain and his impromptu teams are standing in the winter night somewhere in Wisconsin on any given weekend defying the Walker regime.

“These are special times for all of us activists who weren’t activists a year and a month ago, but who are now veterans of the cold streets and who dress for the cold nights and make crazy signs to hold over highways and jump cyclone fences to take pictures and show up in parking lots to work with people we’ve never met before and stand over passing traffic in the bitter windchill holding lit letters that spell a message of accusation and hope, making advertisements for our own movement since we can’t afford the slick billboards that separate the land from the landscape or the Koch-fueled blipvert agitprop saturating all channels proclaiming with Orwellian mastery, “It is working, Wisconsin. It is working. It is working…””

Read more at Daily Kos and watch this lovely video with the perfect soundtrack: “I won’t back down”.

Visit the Overpass Light Brigade on facebook.

Reclaim Wisconsin Tour Stops in Kaukauna, WI

Last night the Reclaim Wisconsin Tour came to Kaukauna, Wisconsin. These events are sponsored by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO among other groups.

From the Wisconsin AFL-CIO:
“The “Reclaim Wisconsin Tour” will discuss the impact of Gov. Walker’s policies on working people including the loss of family-sustaining jobs, the loss of employment protections and benefits, the continual transfer of wealth to Wisconsin’s 1% and the hammering of quality public services and education.”

This tour is giving Wisconsinites the opportunity to see the individual stories behind the “it’s working” nonsense. Catch phrases like “it’s working” and “tough decisions” are easy to remember and parrot, but they don’t express the individual and sometimes painful stories behind them. We all need to be aware of the truth behind the glib, easily spoken slogans.

Here’s Amy Spaulding speaking. She gave a very moving speech. I only wish I had captured all of her words.

This video is of Andrea Reichenberger and Cheryl Myer. They counted their blessings of the past year when they spoke. It’s really worth a watch or three.

Marty Beil’s gives a rousing speech.

This tour has already made stops in La Crosse, Wausau and Eau Claire. The final stop will be in Madison with a candlelight vigil at the capital at 6 pm on March 9 followed up with a rally at 1 pm on Saturday, March 10. Here’s a complete list of tour dates and locations:

Reclaim Wisconsin Tour Dates & Locations
• Wed. Feb. 15:     La Crosse – Copeland Park – 1130 Copeland Park Drive, 5:30pm
• Wed. Feb. 22:     Wausau, Wausau Labor Temple – 318 S. 3rd Ave 5:30pm
• Thurs. Feb. 23:   Eau Claire Phoenix Park Pavilion, Riverfront Terrace, 5:30pm
• Mon. Feb. 27:     Kaukauna UA Local 400 – 2700 Northridge Drive, 5:30pm
• Mon. March 5:    Racine Monument Square – Main & 5th Street,5:30pm
• Wed. March 7:    Milwaukee Serb Hall – 5101 West Oklahoma Avenue, 7:00pm
• Fri. March 9:       Madison Capitol – Candlelight Vigil 6:00pm
• Sat. March 10:    Madison Capitol “Reclaim Wisconsin March at the Capitol” – Rally 1:00pm

NBC 26 did a short segment on the event. It can be found here. It’s worth a peak.

These are “must attend” events and I highly recommend going to at least one of these events as they are guaranteed to educate, inspire and motivate. There’s also nothing quite like spending quality time with like-minded union brothers and sisters. It’s like a family reunion of people who are related by ideas instead of by biology. For full disclosure, I have never had the opportunity to join a union, but will support unions and union workers as much as I can because these are the people that created America’s middle class.

Click here to see pictures from the event.

Raised fist image is by JoePhilipson of flickr. Use is through Creative Commons license.

Screw us and we multiply: Elkhorn’s “One Million Strong Rally”

When Ellen Monahan Holly planned a “One Million Strong Rally” for Elkhorn weeks ago, she wasn’t thinking about Philip Jones. But a recent letter to the  Elkhorn Independent by Jones made more of her friends in the recall fight weather the windchill with her.

It reminds me of that classic protest sign, “Screw us and we multiply”.

In a letter entitled “Obamaism at Work”, Jones printed Ellen’s yearly salary as a teacher and accused her of passing her views onto middle school students. He called recalls “Obamaism” and claimed that in the “real world we pay our own benefits,as you should without crying like a baby”.   The letter concluded with, “Holly with her big income obviously doesn’t care she helped the taxpayers of Wisconsin spend $10 million plus for recall reverse Democracy, such a pathetic little girl.”

Jones’ letter was probably THE reason people from Racine, Janesville, Milwaukee and Madison were determined to drive to the event 60 miles from our Capitol.

As the crowd assembled I could tell that most folks knew each other already. I struck up a conversation with a woman who’s gone to church for years with Jones the insulting letter writer. She summed him up as a blowhard with an abrasive personality. “I told Ellen to dismiss him.” she said.  When I asked Ellen for a comment on Jones, she said the rally wasn’t planned around him but that he was a blessing in disguise. Looking around at the great turnout, she said, “This shows us we do have it in us to work together to save Wisconsin.”

The cheerful crowd broke out into occasional spontaneous chants of “This is what democracy looks like” or “Recall Walker!” or “Hey hey! Ho ho! Scott Walker has got to go” as vuvuzela players tooted at passing cars. Two Scott Walker supporters stood at the corner. Several people told me that 1 of the two is a candidate for the county board who carries a gun. On closer inspection I could see it holstered on his hip. A friend whispered that he’s pretty crazy about guns and thinks that every infant should be issued one at birth.

At one point everybody marched around the park. The Overpass Light Brigade from Milwaukee came with their LED “1% Walker” signs to great praise and applause. They seemed to be both moving to create warmth and entertainment as they did “the wave” with their signs. At one point they proudly walked the signs across the street together in a parade of lights and later they gathered around a group of drummers.

I saw a couple of negative finger signs from passing drivers but most of the drivers going by in the busy downtown gave us wild honking and waving and I even saw fists up in the air out of a couple car windows.

Sly of radio station WTDY spoke briefly and so did field rep. Ed Sadlowski who said he was a “fourth generation trade unionist”. Ellen also took some time at the megaphone. She emphasized that people from all walks of life signed 1 million petitions – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – and she asked those assembled to please “do not take the low road”.  “We’ve got a lot to do in the next 6 months and you know what? We’re going to get it done” [a woman in the crowd yelled “Yes we are!”] Ellen delivered her final words and the crowd chanted “Thank you! Thank you!”


You can find more photos at my facebook page.


David Koch: Gentleman Billionaire

I’m surprised the following article on David Koch is not an even lighter piece of fluff, considering it comes from the Palm Beach Post Money section.

The original title for the piece is “David Koch intends to cure cancer in his lifetime and remake American politics”.  The author mentions the attack on public unions and Wisconsin but weaves the reader back to David’s dream of saving us all from The Big C and concludes with “He has been demonized unfairly and unnecessarily..He’s very much a gentleman.”

Are you feeling reassured? I’s as if somebody just told us that the executioner killing worker rights and the fabric of civilized life in the United States has graciously offered to wear white gloves while performing the task.

Got Bolsheviks?

A very subtle comparison is suggested on page 2 as the writer deftly eases between the union bashing of David Koch’s father and David’s corporate puppet mastering of today.  Under “Expanding on dad’s ideas”:

 “Trade unionism and the welfare state represented a creeping, insidious move toward the Bolsheviks, he believed. He became a founding member of the anticommunist John Birch Society in 1958. 

“My dad was a great man. People loved him. I mean they loved him,” David Koch says, a far-off look in his eyes. “He was like John Wayne. Just like John Wayne.”

Through their personal foundations, their corporate political action committee and their checkbooks, the Kochs have broadened and popularized their father’s views.” 

So this article doesn’t just try to restore the character of David Koch, it aims to warm and fuzzy all over his cowboy dad. It doesn’t impress at all if you’re  familiar with working people who really do save lives instead of pretending to in a movie.

I was tooling around the net looking for stories about Madison protests of 1 year ago this morning and ran into the tale of real lifesaver nurse Meg Matzke [My mom was a nurse and I heard the stories. Trust me – nurses are keeping you and I alive in hospitals]. She’s from Minnessota, so like David Koch, she’s also from out of state.  She was interviewed while protesting and was jokingly called a  “scary outside agitator” by  Mary Bottari of PR Watch because Scott Walker said he had “safety concerns” about people like Meg. Meg simply traveled here to hold her sign.

“We have 13 unionized hospitals in Minnesota. This bill is an assault on our workers, as well as workers everywhere,” she said. “Collective bargaining gives us a voice in the work place. I am on a safety committee, I am on a staffing committee, I am on nurse practice committees. Nurses were getting harmed so we were able to negotiate ‘no lifting’ rules and now we use equipment and we have things like staff ratios to keep our patients safe.” Metzke explained that it didn’t take a law to achieve these protections, but it did necessitate a union. 

When you hear the stories of Megs everywhere – – of people who are professionals keeping you and I – -“the public” – – safe, alive, protected and served – – you are hearing the stories of people David Koch slurs for wanting to retain their “union power”.

That’s why I can’t summon a single tear for the gentleman billionaire.

It’s not that Mr. Koch wants to see you or I dead. But it is true that he wants to pull the rug out from under worker protections that keep people like nurse Meg working well. And she’s the kind of worker who will literally keep you and I  – -even David Koch – –  alive.


 David Koch intends to cure cancer in his lifetime and remake American politics
By Stacey Singer

PALM BEACH — David Koch has become the face of conservative America’s obsession with weakening organized labor, and for that, he believes, there have been death threats – 100 credible threats last year alone, he says.

Journalists tend to describe the lanky MIT-trained chemical engineer and his brother Charles with the phrase “secretive oil billionaires.”

They describe a clandestinely built political machine that disdains government regulation and taxes, obfuscates the science on global warming, and now pulls the strings of decision-makers at every level, from Florida Tea Party members to Wisconsin state senators – even U.S. Supreme Court justices.

“They make me sound like a bully,” David Koch says when asked about journalists, looking a little baffled. “Do I look like a bully?”….


A year ago in Wisconsin, I was awakened… by Wisco Wherls

This is a post by Wisco Wherls which was first published on Daily Kos.  I’m thrilled to have his permission to reprint it here.


How often does an individual have the opportunity to pinpoint the exact moment at which their life was irrevocably changed?  For myself, that moment came exactly one year ago today.  The emotions and memories are so vivid, I merely have to think of that day and I am immediately transported back inside the Madison Capitol.  I was appalled from the moment I learned that Scott Walker was prepared to activate the National Guard, in response to the protests that would surely ensue after he “dropped the bomb” known as the Budget Despair Bill on Wisconsin’s public sector unions.  “How could a state’s governor wield his state’s volunteer Guardsmen and women as his own personal palace guard against his constituents?,” I thought to myself.  (Little did I suspect that utilizing whatever police force was available at the time to quell dissent, would become a staple of life in Fitzwalkerstan.)  At the time, I knew very little about the bill, but it quickly became apparent to me that it was an across-the-board assault on Wisconsin’s progressive values and not only did Scotty know it, but more importantly…he didn’t give a shit.

Having been glued to my television for nearly three weeks prior, as the Arab Spring was unfolding in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, I was inspired by their bravery in the face of bloody government crackdowns and their steadfast determination through peaceful resistance.  So when large-scale protests began in earnest, in virtually my back yard, only days after Egyptians had overthrown their totalitarian government led by Hosni Mubarek, my interest level went off the charts. On that Monday and Tuesday, I eagerly rushed home from work, hopped online and tuned into CNN to follow the latest goings-on from that day’s protests.  With each passing hour, it seemed, the crowds were growing and the movement was picking up steam.  I found myself transfixed by the videos that were beginning to spring up on Youtube with footage of chants, drum circles and incredible passion from inside and outside of the Capitol.  By Tuesday evening on February 15th, I had made the determination that I was done playing the role of casual observer and was ready to head on down to Madison’s own Square to experience the protests first-hand.  I called my boss (and Dad) to ask if I could take the day off and make my way to the Capitol on Wednesday.  Fortunately, having been raised in a liberal family, I already knew his answer and went to bed giddy with anticipation for what the following day would bring.  Needless to say, I was pissed off beyond belief to awaken the next morning with a splitting sinus headache, barely able to lift my gangly frame out of bed.  The protests would have to wait.  I spent virtually the entire day laying around and following the latest developments on Wiseye, the Wisconsin state government’s version of C-Span, but as the day dragged on, I felt the pall hanging over my body beginning to lift.  This was the respite I needed and I determined I was going to the protests on the 17th.

From the instant I entered the Capitol around 1 p.m. with my friend, Shafia Powell, I knew my life would never be the same.  The tidal wave of adrenaline that immediately overtook my body was simply incredible.  It wasn’t so much that I could hear the energy of the crowd or see the intensity on their faces, but rather, that I could literally feel the electricity in the building coursing through me.  Just thinking about it now still sends shivers down my spine.  I was soon enveloped by the near deafening sounds cascading down from the upper reaches of the beautiful Capitol dome, off the marble floors and echoing throughout the packed hallways. Years earlier, I had sung with my high school choir inside of the rotunda, so I was familiar with the phenomenal acoustics inside…but I never could’ve imagined something as powerful as what we were hearing.  As we meandered our way towards the ground floor of the Rotunda, I was swept up in my very first chant of “RE-CALL WAL-KER!!…RE-CALL WAL-KER!!”  It felt odd, at first, to be yelling this repeatedly but having been an avid lifelong sports fan, I soon felt at ease going to work on destroying my already weakened vocal chords.

Despite my new comfort level, I simultaneously felt like a newborn, walking into a strange, and foreign world that so many inside of the Capitol had already grown accustomed to during the previous three and a half days, The sheer number of homemade signs, pictures and fliers adorning the walls was astonishing.  Virtually every spot on any wall, pillar or statue inside of the Cap was covered with a plea, a testimonial, a defiant call for Recall or an optimistic appeal to what little (if any) compassion Walker and Wisconsin’s Republican legislators had for the people of our great state.  As we finally waded through the crowd in order to reach the ground floor of the Rotunda.  I was literally taken aback by what I saw in front of me.  Everywhere I looked, every nook, cranny and balcony was full of Badger red…and every single person was chanting, clapping and dancing as if I’d just walked into a religious revival.  The musicians’ circle was an eclectic mix of drums, tambourines, vuvuzelas and saxophone-led horn section (perhaps even a little cowbell?), yet their sounds and rhythms melded together as if they’d been doing this their entire lives.  This was not what grade schoolers typically witnessed in their run-of-the-mill Capitol tour, to say the least.  But then again, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill legislation.

The sight of yellow banners hanging from the first and second floor balconies, indicating the support from various individuals and groups from all over the United States that had traveled to protest in Solidarity with Wisconsinites, was a heartening one.  Luckily, I was able to experience the unveiling of one shortly after I arrived.  Applause started gradually building from an unseen part of the Rotunda…as people realized another banner was coming out, everyone started cheering, louder and louder, until the banner had been totally unfurled, proudly stating that “DETROIT IS HERE WITH YOU.” The entire place roared with approval and it felt as if we might blow the dome off of the Capitol with the sound  from within.  This scene would repeat itself at various times throughout the day and the response each state and city received was as powerful as the one before it.  Not long after, one of our State Assembly Representatives came out to thank the crowd and express their support.  It was at that moment that I first learned (although many present had already heard) of the heroic journey our state’s 14 Democratic Senators had taken in the middle of the night to be with the flatlanders to the South, in order to prevent the necessary quorum and keep the bill from being rubber stamped over to Walker’s desk.  Wisconsin was in this for the long haul.

I had always been active as far as voting and following national politics.  But prior to a year ago today, I didn’t know Scott Fitzgerald from the Edmund Fitzgerald (and now Scott’s career appears to be sinking almost as quickly!)  For me, democracy had always been about voting and encouraging others to vote.  But outside of the gubernatorial races, I just didn’t give a shit about state politics or actually getting involved.  A year ago today, I truly learned what democracy looked like.  I would no longer merely talk about protecting the rights of myself and others, but rather, stand up for them.  I would no longer merely praise democracy, but rather, physically and socially ENGAGE in active democracy.  I would never again allow myself to settle into an apathetic mindset towards the activities of our elected officials. I had seen the reality of the far right-wing extremism that had been unleashed upon my beloved state by the likes of ALEC and the Koch Brother Barons, under the guise of Scott Walker and a “balanced budget.”  I had stood with those who were so deeply affected by it’s devastating consequences.  The camaraderie and positive vibes I had experienced that day were intoxicating…and I knew that I just had to keep going back and stay involved, for as long as it possibly took.

For me, the atmosphere was encapsulated by the title of what became one of the Solidarity Sing Along’s regular repertoire, “We Are a Gentle Angry People.”  No matter how livid the crowds were (and rightfully so,) they remained non-violent throughout and avoided the pratfalls of mob mentality that so often overcome large, essentially anonymous groups.  The amount of love, passion and creativity I saw poured into virtually every sign, chant and testimonial was incredible.  I was especially inspired by the power of the “People’s Mic,” a megaphone stationed in the center of the Rotunda, where otherwise ordinary individuals of all ages and backgrounds stepped up and bared their souls in front of thousands of strangers, with extraordinary courage they may not have ever known they had inside of them.

This movement and that day in particular, helped me realize that I, too, possessed the courage to make a difference, to let my voice be heard.  A year ago, I had never even heard of the Daily Kos, let alone ever imagined I would start posting on a national liberal blog.  I would not have comprehended spending my free time searching for conversations to stay abreast of the latest developments in Wisconsin’s political and socioeconomic struggle or sharing links and posting Facebook status updates to help others see the reality of what is being done to my state.  Whatever potential I had squandered or failed to utilize up until then no longer mattered to me.  I had discovered a new clarity of purpose and I didn’t know where it would take me, but I am happy where it’s gotten me, thus far.

As dusk settled over that evening’s rally on the steps of Our House, State Assemblyman, and fellow Sun Prairie native Gary Hebl, suggested that Walker and his legislative lap dogs had “awoken a sleeping dog.”  They had assumed the people of Wisconsin would simply roll over and take their attacks on democracy lying down….they were extremely misguided in that assumption.  Well, my eyes are wide open and neither I, nor the people of this state, will be going back to sleep anytime soon.  As I wrote on Facebook, “little did I think that I would walk into our state house on February 17th a curious and concerned supporter of workers’ rights and immediately be transformed into a determined activist.” The sensations I feel when I think back to the protests of last February and March are so strong and so visceral, that simply writing this was a constant battle with my emotions.  My story is not unique from the hundreds of thousands of other stories people have from our shared experiences in those early days, but I knew this anniversary of my entry into the Uprising meant too much personally NOT to write about it.  The entire movement has been about many different individuals coming together with a unity of purpose, overcoming fears and taking on seemingly insurmountable challenges we otherwise may not have had the willpower or intestinal fortitude to take on by ourselves.  Just knowing you have millions behind you…now THAT is true Solidarity.  On Tuesday, I was back inside Our House commemorating the one year anniversary of the I Love the UW Valentine’s Day protest march that kicked everything into high gear, when the powerful chant of “WE’RE STILL HERE!!” broke out in full force.  You’re goddamned right we are.  One year longer, one year stronger, Wisconsin…FORWARD!!!


This is a post by Wisco Wherls which was first published FRI FEB 17, 2012 on Daily Kos. 

“One Year Longer, One Year Stronger” Reflections on the Protests in Wisconsin

As many of you are aware it’s been just over one year since soon to be former Governor Walker announced his “budget repair bill”. Part of this budget repair bill took away collective bargaining rights from public workers. The thing that made my blood boil was the “budget repair bill” was “needed” because of all the tax cuts Walker gave to companies during his first month as governor. This told me that the current administration valued tax cuts to corporations more than workers’ rights. A strong middle class is built because workers have some say in their work place. Taking away any workers’ rights is NOT the “Wisconsin way”.

So much has happened since that fateful day in February it’s tough to even know where to start. There have been so many highs and just as many lows. It’s difficult to keep up on everything happening in Wisconsin politics. I’ve seen mass protests form almost overnight. In fact one of the very first protests against Walker was at the Post Crescent office here in Appleton. I’ve seen a large number of people become politically active for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen an unprecedented number of recall elections.

Before this I never really paid attention to state politics because in the back of my mind I always thought Wisconsin was different and that somehow our politicians were more reasonable than in other states. In my mind, all Wisconsin politicians strove to do the “right thing” for the state and were willing to listen to everyone, even dissenters. Boy, was I wrong and more than a little naive.

In the last year I’ve seen politicians who avoid town hall meetings with their constituents. Some of our elected legislators prefer either a pay for event like a breakfast or telephone conference call. I’ve heard politicians say they’re not interested in listening to people testifying at “listening sessions”. I don’t know about you, but I always believed “we the people” hired these officials by electing them. It’s part of their job description to listen to everyone, not just the people that voted for them. We shouldn’t have to pay to speak with them nor agree completely with them in order to be heard.

Most importantly, I’ve seen a state-wide community of progressives form. Since this started I have found so many unsung Wisconsin heroes, it’s impossible to name them all. There are the people who braved blizzards and froze while protesting at the capital last winter, the people who canvassed neighborhoods during the heat of the summer and who can forget the tens of thousands of people who gathered recall signatures this winter. It may have started because of collective bargaining rights, but it’s branched out to become something much bigger than that. This has turned into a movement that has gained the attention and support of people from all over the country. Many progressives from other states are pinning their hopes and dreams on the successes we have here. They believe their states have a chance to improve if we succeed here in Wisconsin. We can and will make things better. At the beginning people would say “one day longer, one day stronger”, now we can all say “one year longer, one year stronger”. Let’s keep this amazing progressive momentum going FORWARD!!!!!!!!!!!

Video: Wisconsin One Year Stronger, Anniversary Week of Action

This is an excellent video by Arthur over at the facebook page SSWIDTMS. It reminds you why this Anniversary Week of Action is so important – in case you weren’t already convinced.

See the whole list of events on facebook here.

Text below is from Wisconsin Wave:

Why an Anniversary Week of Action?
To remember and honor the unprecedented protests of February and March of 2011, when the people of Wisconsin rediscovered the power of collective action.

To reconvene the empowered community that launched the Capitol Occupation and organized state-wide protests, and to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that fueled them.

To identify ways we can expose the political and economic interests that exploit our democratic process out of greed, and set a course to defeat them.

To create a space where our movement can articulate a long term vision for structural change centered around social, economic, racial, and environmental justice for all people.

To sustain Wisconsin’s 150+ year tradition as a laboratory of democracy by developing new forms of direct democratic decision making.
What is being planned?

Beginning Saturday, February 11th people from across Wisconsin will converge in Madison for a Week of Action to commemorate the one-year anniversary of last year’s Wisconsin Uprising and the sustained occupation of the Capitol building. The Week of Action will include two rallies, a march from UW-Madison to the capitol building, and a Documentation Station inside the Capitol to help preserve the collective memory of those historic events. Other actions may be included as well.

The Week of Action will culminate on Sunday, February 19th, 2012 with a participatory planning session that will set the stage for a statewide people’s assembly, the WisConvocation, to take place in the weeks to come. Participants in the the WisConvocation will deliberate on issues of public concern and formulate proposals for action such as a People’s Budget, a People’s Platform, and a list of movement demands for candidates participating in the 2012 recall elections.

Schedule of Events so far:
(please visit the Week of Action facebook page for a complete list)

Pre Event:
Thursday, February 9th; 7-9pm
“The Wisconsin Uprising One Year On: What Happened and What Next?”

Saturday, February 11th; 10:30am-1pm
“Bury the Mining Bill Feeder March” at 10:30am
“Wisconsin Day! Rally to Kick-off a Week of Action at 12pm”

Sunday, February 12th; 11:00am-1pm
Picket the Governor’s Mansion!

Tuesday, February 14th; 8am-5:15pm
“ICWJ Faith-Labor Breakfest” at 8am
“I Still ♥ UW March and Rally” at 12:15pm
“Show the Love, Save Our Schools! Rally” at 4:15pm

Tuesday, February 14th, Wednesday February 15th; 10-6pm both days
“Capitol Occupation Documentation Station”

Thursday, February 16th; 7-9pm
“One Year Later – Lessons from the Wisconsin Uprising”

Sunday, February 19th; 2-5pm
“WisConvocation Public Planning Session”

Who We Are

The Week of Action is being planned by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals including the Wisconsin Wave! Other endorsers include:

United Wisconsin, Wisconsin AFL-CIO, AFT-Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Family Farm Defenders, Voces de la Frontera, SEIU Healthcare WI, Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) Executive Board (UW-Madison), Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, 9to5 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Wisconsin Bail Out the People, Autonomous Solidarity Organization, Occupy Wisconsin, Occupy Riverwest, Liberty Tree Foundation, Socialist Alternative, International Socialist Organization.

If you or your group would like to endorse, get involved, or add an event to the schedule please contact Harriet Rowan at