A 1st person account in words and images
By Jamie Taylor
MADISON – You would expect over 60,000 people who strongly disagree with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget repair bill gathered in one place – say in and around the state capital building – would give off an air of tension and threat. But the people who came to Madison Saturday from all over the state and Midwest to mostly urge legislators to reject the bill on what they feel is an assault on union collective bargaining rights were, for the most part, mellow.
There were fire fighters from all over the state, often with bagpipes. There was a steady stream of chants and bull horned reasons for the bill to be defeated inside the capital rotunda. There were protestors all over the grounds of the capital, with a steady river of humanity flowing around the building in the street. Spectators stood on the sidewalks on both sides, holding signs of their own, reading the signs of those in the street as they flowed past, or took a break for a cell phone call or text message.
And while the river chanted slogans, sang the union song Solidarity or other common joining of voices, they were respectful to the law. There were no open intoxicants, verbal or physical confrontations between the protestors and those who supported the Governor’s bill. The vastly outnumbered, Tea Party supporters from Wisconsin and neighboring states rallied late in the morning for a couple hours in support of Walker and his plan to close the budget deficit. Afterward, with some sticking around to join the river of demonstrators, with the anti-bill majority just gave them a wide berth and otherwise ignored them.
And the sea of people continued to flow.
Music blared from stacks of speakers on the west side of Capital Square, and from them came a steady stream of music. Many of the songs making the play list were popular easily identifiable for their appeal to both the older union members as well as the University of Wisconsin – Madison and younger students who were out in force. At one point the river of discord in the street sang Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and banged their collective heads to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They also paused in their circling of the Capital Square to “Jump Around” and sing to more modern songs.
From a statue in front of the stage, a young woman clad in a gold sheet and gold body paint, mimicking the statue she clung to while firing up the crowd. She was there all day, it seemed.
All the while people waited in line to enter the capital through the one door open to the public to either view or join the focused protest in the rotunda or wander the areas of the building open to the public still. There people gathered in small groups and talked. Families, including many with young children, gravitated to the upper levels while people looking for a place to spend the night found little nooks to stash their sleeping bags in.
And there were signs and banners to see.
If the whole event seemed like it was in danger of turning into a carnival with elements of a rock concert and a theme park ride folded in for good measure, the river of people gathering into a around the west end of the square around the podium platform for the speeches at 4 p.m. snapped that mood.
In addition to the roster of union leaders, teachers, nurses and other people the bill would affect – more union and Civil Rights era songs were sung.
The collective mood grew more somber as the impact of the loss of collective bargaining rights was drummed home by each speaker. Never mind the insurance and retirement provisions of the bill, the unions were willing to give those up.
And so the two-person Star Wars Walkers drooped their noses as they marched off with the vast majority of the crowd as it filtered off into the gathering twilight. The UW students headed back to their dorms and apartments, the out-of-towners headed for their hotels and the day trippers started to drive home, wherever in Wisconsin that might be. The river of people continued to flow, it had just its strength ebb temporarily.
Inside the Capital, the hard core starts looking for where they are going to sleep, if they hadn’t already. The speeches and core down in the well of the Rotunda will stay strong long into the wee hours.
For this force that Governor Walker has unwittingly summoned to “The People’s House” is rarely completely still.
Or quiet, for that matter.
And despite the anger running just below the surface, the mood is never hostile angry.
The signs see to that.
“Please remember, this is a PEACEFUL Protest!” they say.
They are everywhere. On street signs, trash cans, walls, windows, pillars, people’s backs and even inside the rest rooms and port-a-potties. It is the one message you see no matter where you look.
If one had to sum up one unifying mood of the body public in Capital Square Saturday, it wouldn’t be angry; or beaten; or even remotely cornered.
No, the overwhelmingly one collective mood of everyone who has journeyed from who knows where to join these peaceful protesters is DETERMINED.
A 1st person account in words and images