wisconsin nice

One more Madison protest post. I thought some of you who are studying repression and such might enjoy this local news report (source: http://www.channel3000.com/news/26927705/detail.html ):

MADISON, Wis. — Madison police estimated that crowds on the Capitol Square peaked at about 60,000 people. That’s not much less than a Wisconsin Badgers football game at Camp Randall, but police reported that despite the crowds there were no arrests made.

“On behalf of all the law enforcement agencies that helped keep the peace on the Capitol Square Saturday, a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Madison police said in a statement. “(Protesters) conducted themselves with great decorum and civility.”

The national spotlight was shining brightly on the state of Wisconsin. Saturday was also the first day that Tea Party members showed up in support of Gov. Scott Walker, but despite opposing views there were no incidents to report.

As of 5 p.m., police said there were no major incidents and no arrests. Police said discourse and discussion was, at times, loud and heated.

As previously indicated, the goal of law enforcement has been to provide a safe environment for democracy to take place. That goal has been realized for yet another day, police officials said.”

Edit 1: Just so I don’t sound like I’ve completely lost my capacity for sociological analysis: (1) Protesters are White, Continue reading “wisconsin nice”

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madison protests saturday morning

My spouse and I were downtown this morning for part 1 of today’s events but couldn’t spend the day. We decided to do our part to inflate the pro-union crowd before the pro-Walker rally and then head home. Given what we saw as we left, I think it will have gotten a lot bigger after we were gone. Folks actually on site will have to fill in the details.

There were mixed messages on Facebook again about when to show up. From the TAA sources the plan was one rally at 10, another at 4:30, with the TeaParty rally scheduled for noon. But another Madison Facebook site linked to by a lot of my non-TAA friends gave the rally time for “our” side as 10-2. I know there was 2 hour non-violence training last night and a marshals’ meeting at 8 this morning.

The crowd wasn’t large when we arrived at 9:30. Police presence was much larger and more visible today — only two of the entrances to the Capitol are open, the rest are closed and guarded. (This in contrast to the wide-open Capitol all week.) Also prominently displayed but not visible earlier were signs saying “no guns allowed in the Capitol.” There’s more security checking going on as you enter today. I spoke to a TAA marshal inside the Capitol, who said that the King Street side (easiest for the big protests and where the Wednesday thru Friday protests have been) is reserved for Tea Party. They are getting 25% of the area and the union protesters 75%. The marshals’ job is to keep everyone peaceful and keep “our” side away from the Tea Party side to avoid inflating their numbers. He also said the goal was to keep the inside of the Capitol fully occupied so there would be no room for Tea Party protesters.  Lots of protesters — especially the young ones — are wearing or carrying xeroxed signs that say “this is a peaceful protest.”

We went back outside at 10. Labor groups were starting to arrive in larger numbers. We stood for a while down on the sidewalk at the State Street side of the Capitol, where you could only sort of hear the speakers. People were milling about in groups, some discussing the political issues, some chatting about local gossip. We ran into friends from church: mother, father and two children. They said they’d been unable to attend the protests during the week because the family had all had strep. She’s a nurse and was wondering where the nurse contingent was. One child borrowed my ball point pen to write a slogan she had thought up on the way over. After a while, I decide to move in the King Street direction, to see how things looked over that way. I discovered you could hear better over there and that the crowd was much larger than I’d thought. One union man told us he’d heard there were doctors giving people medical excuses for missing work and asked if we knew where they were. Sorry. I overheard one marshal tell another that the goal was to turn everybody up the driveway and back towards the north to route them over to East Washington for a rally. Nobody from the speaker’s stand asked the union protesters to stay out of the Tea Party area. As the rally ended and the crowd dispersed, the marshals  were trying to turn them as instruction; many complied but a lot of union protesters went in the King Street direction. There appeared not to be enough marshals at that specific location to manage and communicate with a  crowd of that size if the goal was to persuade folks to avoid the King Street area.

The rally turned into a march and the line of marchers going by and being turned up the driveway was a lot larger than I had expected. People had clearly kept coming into the area. The crowd started to look to me like maybe it was as big as yesterday.

We got cold and had to do other things, so left shortly before noon, walking back toward campus down State Street, which was full of people walking toward the Capitol carrying signs. Judging by the sign balance, the State Street traffic had to be at least 50-1 pro-union. I did see a few small contingents of people carrying Walker signs, and a group of perhaps 50-100 young people marching down State Street behind a Walker banner. If the Tea Party is coming to town in force, they are doing it from another direction.

That’s all I know. I can’t find any meaningful live coverage of events, so now I’m prisoner to the same news sources as anyone else. There is a live aerial feed at http://www.channel3000.com/localvideo/index.html?v=live but it has no audio and the resolution is too blurry to identify sign content, so I find it impossible to “read” the feed to understand anything about what is going on.  It mostly seems to be shots of people milling around.

Madison Friday 2

Part II of Friday protests. Written later with more leisure.

I begin with the  part of the most general interest first. If you don’t have  a taste for my more personal musings in the middle, you can skip to the end, where I recap my understanding of how  the week’s events unfolded and summarize what I saw when I looked at the TV news coverage of today.

Out at the 5:00 rally, lots of singing, union songs plus God Bless America. Late start on the talks. A Assembly Democrats come out and talk about having a “surprise” for the crowd. Say he’s going to tease a bit, talks about other things. I’m thinking, “Oh, Wow, there’s been a concession.”  Finally says, “The Republicans have adjourned to Tuesday!” I’m certainly confused about why he’s sounding so happy about this. He says “Isn’t that a wonderful surprise?” People around me are saying, “What is the surprise?”  It turns out he’s trying to say (not real clearly) that having the Assembly adjourn to Tuesday is a victory because the process has been slowed down. Then more speeches from really hard working teachers from union families who love their jobs and are worried. Sorry I’m getting a little jaded at this point. I’m cold and hungry and it is already 6pm, the time I thought the 5pm rally would be ending. I’d heard Jesse Jackson was going to speak, but I decided I couldn’t hold out any longer, so I left. Later, checking local news clips, I discovered that this is what had happened according to two local television reporters: The Republicans called a session for 5pm. Then they actually started early, without the Democrats, and took votes on some amendments and were about to vote on the main motion when the Democrats arrived. The Democrats yelled and there were angry exchanges. The result  was that the Republicans agreed to rescind the votes on the amendments out and adjourn until Tuesday, meaning that Democrats can still offer amendments on Tuesday. None of these goings-on in the assembly made it to the national news broadcasts, but the local FOX affiliate covered it, including the Republican confession that it had been a “bull run” and the the print version on the FOX website mentions it. Continue reading “Madison Friday 2”

madison protest snippets

I just happened to be inside the Capitol when Jesse Jackson showed up. It was a pretty amazing site to see him leading an overwhlemingly (but not exclusively) White crowd singing “We Shall Overcome” and reminding them that King supported workers’ rights.

It’s a huge crowd, a lovely day by our standards (sunny and in the 30s), high spirits all around. It’s like a giant party there, inside, outside, all around the town. The Democratic Senators are sequestered out of state somewhere; the Democratic Representatives are wearing orange T-shirts saying something like “Democratic Representatives in solidarity with labor.”  The labor speaker who offered financial concessions straight up and said “this is not about money” was only half-heartedly cheered by the crowd, but everybody screamed in support when he yelled that it is about the right to organize and workers’ rights are human rights.

There’s actually a lot more in that bill than attacks on public unions, including devastating cuts in health services for low income people, but it is clear that the attack on collective bargaining and the idea of unions is what is pulling out the troops. A speaker at the rally said that the Michigan governor has said he won’t go after the unions.

House Reps are keeping testimony going in a rump session of the Joint Finance Committee after the Republican majority declared the hearing closed so they could get on with their vote. I’ve been a little puzzled about why the twitter feed keep exhorting people to sign up to testify in the middle of the night, but apparently this is because the Capitol is kept open if there is a public meeting gonig on.

Again there was a reference at the rally to protests elsewhere. I don’t have time to track them down, but a grad student who saw my previous post said this blog entry links to some of them: http://hiphopandpolitics.com/2011/02/18/class-warfare-in-wisconsin-10-things-you-should-know/

I don’t have a smart phone and don’t have a text plan (texts cost me 20 cents each) so I’m pretty much off the grid when I’m down at the protest. It’s hard to know what is going on without a smart phone now. I’m going to take my wifi-enabled planner back down there to see if I can manage to do anything with the TAA’s set-up.

madison protests later in the day

I’m back from a few hours at the Madison protest and the midday rally.

The galvanizing issue for the protest is to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights over anything but salary. There is a report that the “budget crisis” is a sham, in that the budget was left in fairly good shape by the outgoing Democratic governor (who has been imposing cuts on the public sector, the university, and welfare throughout the eight years of his administration), and the Republicans passed a series of expensive tax breaks for businesses in January. It’s fair to say that this is not a sad response to fiscal crisis, but a calculated attempt to weaken unions.

The midday protest was quite an event. It is a huge crowd that looks a lot like tea-party folks: overwhelmingly white, predominantly middle-aged despite the large infusion of high school kids and college students. Even a few “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.  Labor unions from the private sector were out in force today. The Capitol is packed and huge crowds are outside it. Lots of shops along State Street have signs supporting the unions and/or the teachers. I’m sure they are doing a booming business. The police and firefighters, who are exempted from the loss of collective bargaining rights due to their support for the Governor in the last election, nevertheless turned out in force in solidarity with other public workers. The mood of the crowd was upbeat.

Late-breaking news: State Sentate Democrats finally got a spine with mass support and are in hiding to prevent a quorum which would bring the bill to a vote. The police are now charged with finding them. The rumor is that they left the state.

The is another rally called for 5:30 this evening and more over the weekend. The Ed Show on MSNBC (comes on after Rachel Maddow) gave Madison extensive coverage last night and is broadcasting from here tonight; people were urged to show up to the Capitol Square for the broadcast.

Continue reading “madison protests later in the day”

madison protests

This is a week of protests in Madison over the new governor’s “budget repair” bill that includes repealing most collective bargaining rights for public employees. Someone posted a 30 second clip of the rally on Youtube from Wednesdays  midday rally, estimated at 30,000 people, even bigger than yesterday’s rally that was estimated at 10,000 – 12,000 and  included a lot of labor union contingents. (My impression was that the modal attendee yesterday was middle-aged, not college age.) Hundreds of people spent the past two nights providing 2 minutes of testimony each at the legislative hearing on the bill. Wednesday’s  rally was augmented by the “sick in” of Madison’s public school teachers which led the district to cancel classes. With the schools closed, whole families are downtown at the rally, as well as substantial contingents from all the high schools. This is largely a “company town” in the sense that government employees predominate, so an attack on state employee benefits is an attack on the whole community. Outside of Madison, it seems to be the unions who are stepping up and see this as a continuation of the attack on organized labor. Beyond that, we’ve gotten to the position where government employees have become stigmatized and safe “others” to attack as part of political career-building.

I may post later about feeling like Obama, dithering around, in my case about how to handle class cancellation in the face of the flow of events. Madison finally made the national news after 30,000 protesters were out yesterday. Today Milwaukee public schools have also closed, along with many districts near Madison. After a somewhat confusing series of “assembly instructions” hindered by the ban on using university email for any political activity, it is clear that most university classes will be canceled for the day. This is likely to be a very big day for collective action. The state house passed the bill at midnight last night, the state senate votes today.

National news is still not getting the story right. This state’s “fiscal crisis” is not as bad as most, and most of the deficit is due to a series of tax breaks the governor pushed through for his cronies in January. The mass mobilization is around stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. This is galvanizing organized labor generally.

Interesting to be caught up in the flow of events.

I’m off to join the masses.

edit:  Milwaukee Public Schools did not close, although many southern Wisconsin districts have closed. They are likely to have a mess there if many teachers call in sick but they refuse to close.

edit #2: State house has passed the bill, the strategy is to delay the vote in the Senate by having hundreds (thousands?) of people sign up to speak at the public hearing. People have been testifying at 2 minutes apiece since Tuesday.

Egypt & other protest videos

I’m posting these links here so I can find them for later classroom use. This is a two-part series produced by Al-Jazeera. Each episode is 25 minutes. WordPress won’t let me embed, so here is a link to their page:
http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/2011/02/201121310411102992.html

Here’s a 3 minute synopsis posted to Youtube by Al-Jazeera

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbeDKzT71Y4

Two minute video on the Madison protest Feb 15 2011 (re proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from state workers: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/blog/article_726761dc-394a-11e0-8465-001cc4c03286.html?mode=video

Here are some pictures from the overnight sit-in: http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=614511&id=716045233&fbid=10150383401840234