Live blogging “Wisconsin Uprising – The Story of Students in the Capitol”

Notes I took [with very little polish applied later]  while listening to 4 UW-Madison students relive the how and why of the Capitol occupation in Madison, Wisconsin. This is part of the Democracy Convention being held today through Sunday.

Presenting: Charity Schmidt, Erika Wolf, Jolie Lizotte, Seth T. Hoffmeister

They briefly described the bill released and it’s attack on Wisconsin with the audience adding information – clarifying points.

People just put out the calls – we didn’t have time to bicker over who would pay for a bus to get to Madison [for students from non-Madison system schools]

February 11 Walker announced he’d release his “budget repair bill”

Students already had planned on a Monday event to show appreciation for teachers, so they were already organizing. Tuesday a public hearing on the bill began in front of the Joint Finance Committee.

Thursday Feb. 17, students walked out of school.

“These walk-outs really empowered students in Madison” A student was putting on a massive march out of East High to coincide with a walk out from West High. “He called me up and it was one of the most powerful moments for me – seeing him lead a group of 100’s of students who last I knew were children. ..Now they were demonstrating power in a real way.”

(Awesome-Bruce – longest daily protester of Madison – is here, too.)

Now discussing getting info out on the page Badger Impact, DefendWisconsin, using twitter-hashtags and twitter accounts – “that’s what enabled things to be spontaneous”. “It kept up that sense of urgency”.

“We kept it going until that Tea Party protest”. We decided that we wanted to keep things peaceful. The next day there were signs everywhere “Remember this is a peaceful protest”.

Discussed “This is what democracy looks like” honking of cars. And how we’d make jokes replacing the verb “looks” with other ones like “smells” and “sounds” etc.

(Moving onto the Assembly Occupation – but doubling back first….typical in storytelling with the protest – – “oh-don’t forget this” feeling)

Speakers noting that SLAC Student Labor Coalition and other school groups also had a strong part to play.

“Food just starting coming in. Coffee was getting delivered. Pizza from all over the world.”Online media made this happen – that’s how people found out where to send help, where to send the pizza.

Audience member asks about non-hierarchical structure – their role of being the heart and soul of drumming every day.

Answer on drum circle: the inception was there was an organized drum troupe, brother said you have to stop by and get some buckets and add to those people’s drumming. “It adds to that heartbeat”. From that we also had speakers, spontaneously–letting people speak. People were able to walk into the rotunda center, hold up a peace sign with their hand and gain quiet so they could speak.

People donated acupressure assistance to ease stress and medical care. A street medic team was formed to offer aid. An herbalist donated lavendar for calming.

Why things worked for students in Wisconsin: they were able to come together and form a coalition. Some areas they worked on-honoring people of color, women, LGBT community. Having a non-hierarchal structure made it complicated but it worked – made phonecalls to 10 people sometimes.

Now discussing United Council which coordinates 21 student gov’ts. It has 9 staff members. We had all of these diverse organizations but each of the students was a member of United Council. It served as a bridge.

Students would sit down forming a coalition with labor, Democratic Party organizations. Conversations were striking up easily anywhere “I moved here 7 years ago and when this went on people were friendly -I felt like it was home for the first time.”

Discussing when the Capitol was starting to be shut down…it made a major change in the protest.  Turmoil was created…”they came in and began tearing down the posters at midnight.”  Then they had people come in – 1 in and 1 out-for every 1 person coming in, 1 had to go out of the Capitol. They [the protesters] began to be more careful about who came in – could the stay there for 3 days straight?

Decribing students at UW Eau Claire and UW Stevens Point getting together – 300 people showing up to rally in solidarity with Madison – spontaneous but organized.

Short notices – we coordinated a 2,500 people rallying. 1300 came from the community, the remainder walked single file from a labor convention 1 mile away.

Looking around and thinking “This is alive, this is contagious right now”.

Audience member asks: Did you feel like your protest organizing was taken away from you? I ask because I came to hear Michael Moore and there were two protests going on – there was a union stage and then there was Michael Moore with Wisconsin Wave – (another audience member says) – part of it was there was Michael Moore who the unions didn’t want to have on their stage. They were afraid of what he’d say.

Audience question: Were authorities monitoring your communication? Answe: Wouldn’t be surprised. There was a double-infiltration going on between cops dropping hints to protesters…

Audience: What will you do if Walker manages to survive recall..?  Answer from Seth-If we don’t recall Walker, we have to keep on going. “once you realize you have to react on a snap’s notice, you get good at that.”

Bruce from the audience:  The energy shifted to the recalls – to the labor temple, to the Dem. Party offices. The energy shifted and it was still working. We’re at a critical point with the recalls over – we need to rekindle ourselves. I don’t think we should be worried about him losing. I think we should be keeping people energized so we can get to the recall.

Much commentary on the March 9th, 6PM meeting of Senate finance committee after WI Act 10 had all “fiscal” provisions stripped and how people just drove up to the Capitol and abandoned their cars in anger. How people from Stevens Point began driving at 9pm to get there at 11pm: 78 amendments on a bill all tabled “What’s the point point of the democratic process”

Following the March 9 episode, the Assembly chambers came under occupation – students and some union members decided to occupy and block the assembly to halt a vote.


United Council:

Julie Lizette –  lizotte AT

email Seth Hoffmeister – pres AT

charityschmidt77 AT

Usual suspect Steve Nass fires up protest expense feud, insults Rep. Terese Berceau

I’m pondering whether I’ll start drawing social security before or after this feud over protest-related expenses ends. (23 years from now, give or take).

As you recall, Wisconsin’s DOA got the message out that protests at the Capitol were an expensive burden, saying it would cost $7.5 million for Capitol building cleaning – which later got knocked down to about $350,000. We’re back to talking big numbers but this time on security: $8.1 million in security costs during the high protest weeks at the Capitol.

Representatives Terese Berceau of Madison and Steve Nass of Whitewater seem to be designated fighters sparring on this issue.

Dem. Rep. Terese Berceau
Therese Berceau: “I am horrified that Governor Walker’s paranoia toward the people of Wisconsin has now resulted
in Wisconsin taxpayers being forced to shoulder an extra $8.1 million dollars in security costs. At the height of the protests earlier this year I was in the Capitol on a daily and nightly basis. Nothing warranted this cost. I saw seven state patrol officers outside of a second-floor bathroom with no protesters in sight. Twenty-eight state troopers stood outside the Assembly chambers when we were voting on redistricting when almost no one was in the Capitol. At one time, I actually heard a state trooper say, ‘Who do we call to say that two-thirds of us aren’t needed?’ – link to her full statement dated August 15.

I can cosign. And I can understand over-staffing in the early days, but as time wore on, it became clear the crowds were mature and even organizing their own volunteer “marshals” to act as vigilant watchdogs, ensuring civility.

When Nass wrote back to Berceau, he said that Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, County Executive Kathleen Falk, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, and Madison Police Chief Noble Wray were “siding with the siege participants” and egging them on.

(A little perspective on Tea Partier Nass’ relationship with Madison – he thinks that the Indian Mascot law should be repealed because the old name-your-team-after-an-Indian system wasn’t discriminatory while he IS worried about car driver discrimination committed by the “liberal extremists in Madison who hate cars and think everyone should bike to work.”)

Nass is missing the point that the amount of security was out of balance with the situation. But let’s say I do entertain this argument–that Dane County leaders have some responsibility for keeping the crowds strong and present. Then by the same logic, Nass and the whole largely boy band of Republicans bear a heavy burden of responsibility for standing by the legislative equivalent of Walker’s Atom Bomb. They refused to budge an inch on the laundry list of offenses within Wisconsin Act 10 and the rush of legislation that followed, only giving us maybe an 8th of an inch particularly by keeping Wisconsin’s Seniorcare program intact [This is a program which I’ve witnessed get put on the chopping block periodically over the years only to be revived at the last minute as if it’s fated to star in some ritual drama. This I know because I’ve heard my 84-year-old mom worrying about it each time]

As for the Dane County side of enforcement aid, Nass is not addressing squarely what caused tension between DOA and the Dane County Sheriff, David Mahoney, which is that the DOA refused to comply with a court order that opened up the Capitol building to the public and Mahoney responded by pulling his men and women, refusing to use them as “palace guards”:
“The deputies had been told that the doors would be open at 8 a.m. yesterday, but that didn’t happen and the officers didn’t find out why until the afternoon, Mahoney said.
“When asked to stand guard at the doors that duty was turned over to the Wisconsin State Patrol because our deputies would not stand and be palace guards,” Mahoney said. “I refused to put deputy sheriffs in a position to be palace guards.”” -press conference 3/1/11

Nass seems to be assuming that if local enforcement were more involved, the whole security detail would’ve been cheaper. I don’t see anything to prove it. Plus Madison and Dane County have had to float the $ to pay those personnel and they aren’t even reimbursed yet. Why would they want to take on more of the expense and wait this long to get $ – especially from a hostile administration like Walker’s?

Nass finishes off with a pithy paragraph about truth and the “fight to save our state and country”. The thousands who were so moved to assemble at his place of work and our Capitol to appeal to him also ARE OF THIS STATE AND COUNTRY. They also hold truth–apparently as seen through a different lense. They stood in the snow for hours. They didn’t demand Nass stand outside with them. They just wanted Nass and his kind to unthaw enough to move an unseen dial to a middle place inside their hearts or minds and accept the task of governing for all Wisconsinites. Nass has no noble claim of serving state and country. He’s lost that.

Nass stayed inside safe and dry and stubborn, and left too many people out in the cold.


Rep. Nass: Letter to Rep. Berceau re: Round 2 Capitol security costs

Representative Terese Berceau
Room 127 West
State Capitol

RE: Round 2 – Capitol Security Costs and Reading Comprehension

Dear Representative Berceau:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter of August 16, 2011. I appreciate you taking the time to obtain a response from the public sector union bosses and forwarding their thoughts on to me.

I encourage you to review your letter since it fails to accurately depict the content of my letter (not a press release). I stated my opposition to reimbursement of costs incurred by the City of Madison Police Department and the DaneCounty Sheriff’s Department (emphasis added to assist in ease of reading). Your letter dishonestly states I am opposed to paying all law enforcement agencies for their service at the State Capitol.

During the Capitol Siege, I understand that you were busy pandering to the protesters while wearing your orange shirt, but the media documented the statements of Sheriff Dave Mahoney, County Executive Kathleen Falk, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, and Police Chief Noble Wray.

In those statements, it was clear these local Madison officials were siding with the siege participants and even encouraging their conduct. These local actions clearly played a role in the need for the Department of Administration and the Capitol Police Department to seek assistance from other state and local law enforcement agencies in re-establishing law and order at the State Capitol.

If the Madison Police Department and the DaneCounty Sheriff’s Department were permitted to provide service within the State Capitol, then it might not have been necessary to obtain manpower from other agencies. However, the local leadership of these law enforcement agencies ( City of Madison and Dane County) restricted those officers from participating in the proper law enforcement function of securing the State Capitol and removing the obstructing protesters.

I am not surprised that you would attempt re-write history and whitewash the terrible conduct of your colleagues in the professional protest community. However, the intentional dishonesty in your communications are another telling sign of the desperate need of Assembly Democrats to hide their behavior from decent people of this state. While the truth may be your enemy, it is the life’s blood of the citizens that took back their government in November 2010 and will continue to fight to save our state and country.


Steve Nass
State Representative
31st Assembly District

Letter originally located at

To communicate with Rep. Steve Nass:
Capitol Telephone
(608) 266-5715 Or
(888) 529-0031

District Telephone
(262) 495-3424

Room 12 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

Voting Address
N8330 Jackson Road
Whitewater, WI 53190

Nass’ district:
Steve Nass Wisconsin Assembly District 31
Image from GazetteExtra

How much Madison/Dane County did kick in: According to Isthmus “The state has calculated that costs for providing security during the months of protests is more than $8 million. Madison is asking to be reimbursed $682,842 for services it provided, including $555,098 for police, $37,719 for fire personnel, $79,148 for Metro Transit and $10,876 for use of the fire department’s command center. The state expects to pay Dane County $534,081.”

Statement from Madison Police Chief Noble Wray