The events unfolding during the past weeks in Madison, WI have been an incredible and educational experience. Being at the heart of this issue (because it is occurring right here where I live) has shed light on how the national media has unfortunately not been reporting the facts and details surrounding these events correctly. I want to try and present the facts here to accurately record what has been happening in Madison this past week. When looking for information on the budget bill and the protests, I always try to look at a source that is non-bias or is the original source, such as as government document. Below I recap each day's events, including links to every source (see the corresponding number at the bottom). If you find that any of the information below is incorrect, please notify me (sending your source to andrew "AT" avidandrew.com) and I will make corrections to this page.
Gov. Scott Walker announces his Budget Repair Bill for the state of Wisconsin (you can read the full text of the bill here - 29). He states that "the state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year" (1). To help make up for this $137 million, the bill calls for public workers to pay 5.8% of their salary towards their pension and 12% of their salary for health care (1). In addition, this bill will no longer allow public workers to collectively bargain for anything (benefits, working conditions, etc) except for salary (1). A more concise summary of some of the major changes of the bill is available here (2). To be clear, Gov. Walker states that the reason for removing collective bargaining rights is so unions cannot negotiate these cuts (5.8% and 12%) and hold up or minimize the changes to help repair the budget, "I know as a (former) local official, collective bargaining time and time again was the thing that stood in the way of local governments and school districts being able to manage their budgets." (3). To put it another way, Gov. Walker said ""Let's not kid ourselves. The reality is, it's about the money." (3). He also stated that the budget emergency is too urgent to allow for time to negotiate new contracts with the unions (8). Gov. Walker clearly states that the reason he is cutting collective bargaining is so we can balance the state budget. This bill was set to be voted on by the state senate on Thursday, Feb. 17th, 6 days after it was announced. Regardless about your thoughts and viewpoints on changes the bill would make, this is a very short amount of time to pass legislation that makes such large, sweeping changes. Part of the problem with doing this so quickly is it is difficult to account for all of the less obvious changes that this would make. An example of this involves the state's public transportation system, including Madison Metro. The state of Wisconsin received $73.9 million of funding (in 2010) from the federal government for public transit (4). Of this $73.9 million dollars of federal support, "$46.6 million to Tier A-1, Tier B, and Tier C bus systems could potentially be withheld from state transit systems under the federal 13(c) provisions as a result of the changes to municipal collective bargaining" (4, 5). When asked about the impact of this loss of funding for Madison Metro (about $7.1 of the $46.6 million for the whole state), Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz said, "we'd have to look at dramatic cutbacks in service ... it's something that I'm sure wasn't thought about when this bill was so hastily put together." (6). This is a case in point of the sort of unknown consequences of this bill. Because the changes in this bill are so high-impact, the best course of action would be to delay a vote on it so that the impact of these changes can be fully considered.
Protesters gathered at the state Capitol on Monday to voice their support in opposition of the budget repair bill which would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees (7). I do not have pictures from this day's events because I did not attend. However, I took all of the photos for the rest of the days of the protest on this page.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports over 12,000 protesters descended on the Capitol building today (8). The budget repair bill specifically exempts police officers and firefighters from the changes, allowing them to keep their collective bargaining rights: "Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes." (1). Despite this exemption, local firefighters marched through the Capitol today in support of their fellow public employees (8). Realizing how the budget cuts and elimination of collective bargaining rights would affect their teachers, almost 800 students from Madison's East High School (over half the school population) walked out and marched to the demonstration at the Capitol in support of their teachers (9).
The Madison Metropolitan School District (along with other school districts across the state) closed schools on Wednesday because over 40% of teachers called in sick in order to go protest the budget bill before it would be voted on this Thursday (9). Despite having the day off, about 600 students from Madison's West and Memorial high schools organized and marched to the Capitol in support of their teachers (10). Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 10,000 - 20,000, which included teachers, students, public workers, firefighters, and others. Lawmakers at the Capitol listened as hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of people testified (2 minutes per person) about why they oppose this bill and how it will affect them (12).
This was the date that the bill was set to be voted on in the state Senate. Again schools were closed. This morning the 14 Democratic Wisconsin state senators looked down at the crowds surrounding the Capitol and made a choice - they all boarded a bus and left the state (11). This move prevented the state Senate from voting on the bill, because the Senate requires a quorum (3/5 attendance), but without at least 1 of the Democratic senators, the Senate cannot reach a quorum (11). When asked later about the choice that they made, Sen Jon Erpenbach of Middleton said that ""It's not like we wanted to do this, but we needed to slow this down" citing the sweeping nature of the changes that the bill introduces and how there has been no time for negotiation or research on its effects (11). Sen. Chris Larson said that they left because "It was pretty obvious they (the Republican senators) weren't going to listen to the thousands of people protesting." (11). Over 25,000 protesters came to the Capitol today (12).
Protesters numbered between 35,000 to over 40,000 on Friday (12). Again schools were closed. When the Madison Metropolitan School District attempted to force the teachers back to work, a judge denied it (17). The two largest unions in Wisconsin, AFSCME and WEAC, (representing the majority of unionized workers) brought an agreement to Gov. Scott Walker stating that they would agree - without further negotiation - to all of the monetary concessions in the budget repair bill. The only thing they will not agree to is the elimination of their collective bargaining rights (13, 15). I looked everywhere for a transcript of Gov. Walker's press conference but could not find it (please send it to me if you can find it). However, you can watch the video of the conference at (14). At this conference, Gov. Walker explicitly rejects the offer of all of the monetary concessions by the unions. He states that the reason collective bargaining needs to be eliminated is because having unions negotiate changes to their benefits and salary takes time and the actual agreement reached may result in less money than the bill specifies - $137 Million (14). I am sorry I have to paraphrase this part of his speech, but as I mentioned I can only find the video, not a transcript. Thus, his justification for removing collective bargaining rights is because they would diminish the amount of money given up by union members to repair the budget. After watching his press conference and hearing this, I could see that Gov. Walker is unfortunately not interested in fixing Wisconsin's budget. If he were, he would have accepted the offer by the unions. They gave him all of the monetary concessions asked for in the bill. His justification of the elimination of collective bargaining rights does not hold because the unions already conceded all of the monetary changes - there will be no negotiation. The two points that Gov. Walker himself outlined (as I quoted above) for this budget repair bill were the urgency of the crisis and the amount of money we need to make up the deficit. Both of these have now been satisfied by the unions' concessions, yet he refused this offer. This makes me seriously question his motivation for this bill. Why would he not accept this offer if he only wanted to fix the budget?
68,000 protesters descended on the Capitol Square on Saturday (15). In addition to the pro-union protesters, several hundred Tea Party members (supposedly funded by and brought to Madison by the Koch brothers) also came to the Capitol Square to protest (16). It is important to note that several hundred Tea Party protesters were present, in contrast to nearly 70,000 pro-union protesters (16). I was not able to be at the Capitol during the early afternoon, but one person I talked to said he saw all of the Tea Party protesters together in one of the streets leading up to the Capitol building, with pro-union protesters surrounding them in every direction:
When I did arrive later in the afternoon, this was the only group of Tea Party protesters I could find:
I witnessed an incredible thing on Saturday which I think articulates the nature of these protests and the people involved. On Friday night I was in the Capitol and all of a sudden I saw people pushing a cart stacked high with pizzas from Ian's Pizza. They then started passing the pizza out to the crowd of protesters for free. Then on Saturday we actually went to Ian's Pizza to get a couple slices for dinner. As I was standing in line, one of the Ian's employees came over the speakers and announced that pizza for everyone in line was already paid for - it was free - thanks to donations they had been receiving from around the country and around the world. Here is a picture of Ian's tally of donations as of Thursday, Feb 24th:
Ian's reported giving away over 1,000 slices of free pizza at the restaurant and delivering over 300 pizzas to the Capitol on Saturday (19). This "tradition" has continued on in the following days as well. By Thursday, Feb 24th supporters from all 50 states and over 57 countries had contributed money to Ian's Pizza.
Cold weather, snow, and freezing rain greeted protesters on Sunday morning. The photo above was taken around 8:00 AM, depicting some of the protesters who spent the night in the Capitol. Despite the weather, protesters were not deterred, with hundreds packing the Capitol building and making their voices heard (21).
Monday was a mandatory furlough day for state workers. These furloughs had been set up by the previous governor, Jim Doyle (D), in order to address the then $5 billion dollar state debt (75). At the time that Scott Walker introduced this budget repair bill, that debt has been reduced to $3.2 billion (reduced already by $2 billion, with none of these drastic cuts). Because of these furloughs, many state workers used their day off to march to the Capitol and protest. I have not yet seen a report of how many people were in attendance. For the first time, state police officers sided with theprotesters in solidarity, even though their collective bargaining rights are not threatened by this bill (1):
Gov. Walker rejected a compromise proposed by GOP senator Dale Schultz that would remove collective bargaining rights for only 2 years, after which time they would be restored to state workers (23). This again seems to indicate that his agenda with this bill is not to solve Wisconsin's fiscal problems but rather make sure that unions are destroyed.
UW Faculty participated in a march to the Capitol today, joined by students and other protesters (22). The Capitol was again packed with protesters, though specific numbers have not yet been released (24). The state Assembly has reconvened and is in the process of hearing over 100 amendments to the bill by Democratic assemblymen. Gov. Walker made another speech tonight (video - 26, transcript - 27), in which he stated that "I also understand how concerned many government workers are about their futures. I?ve listened to their comments and read their emails. . . That?s why last week we agreed to make changes to the bill to address many of those issues" (27). Here's a copy of the amendments that he is referring to that were introduced to the bill last week (28). It is only 6 pages, so you can easily read the entire document. Besides allowing LTE workers to retain their healthcare, these changes do not at all address the concerns of the thousands of people protesting against it. There is an amendment to allow a wetland to not be labeled a wetland, and another change regarding a powerplant (28). These things have nothing to do with protecting the rights of workers. Moreover, Walker states that "it?s important to remember that many of the rights we?re talking about don?t come from collective bargaining. They come from the civil service system in Wisconsin. That law was passed in 1905 (long before collective bargaining) and it will continue long after our plan is approved" (27). According to Gov. Walker, the rights that union workers are fighting for will not be taken away by this bill, which eliminates collective bargaining. Politifact has outlined thedefinition of both civil service and collective bargaining in Wisconsin (28). Currently, state employees are covered by civil service, but many local government employees and all public school teachers are not (28). Civil service guarantees that the employer must grant workers benefits like vacation and overtime pay, however the employer gets sole power in deciding what the details of these benefits will be (28). Thus, employees have no say in how much vacation they get or how much more they would be paid for overtime. On the other hand, collective bargaining mandates that the employer and employees must "meet and confer at reasonable times, in good faith, with the intention of reaching an agreement" on wages and benefits (28). As you can see, collective bargaining plays a crucial role in this equation. Without it, employers would be required to provide benefits only to those workers covered by civil service, and they could place arbitrary limits or restrictions on these benefits at their discretion. Gov. Walker's assertion that civil service protects the same rights as collective bargaining is false.
Gov. Scott Walker stated that the reason he must eliminate collective bargaining rights from the bill is because they bog down local governments from balancing their budgets: "I know as a (former) local official, collective bargaining time and time again was the thing that stood in the way of local governments and school districts being able to manage their budgets" (3). Local governments across Wisconsin are speaking out in disagreement with him - "more than 200 mayors, school board presidents and other local officials held a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday to voice their objections to Walker's budget repair bill. The group, representing at least 20 cities, 41 towns and 22 counties, has sent a letter to the governor asking him to restore collective bargaining to his bill. The officials say the proposal harms their ability to find common ground with municipal and county employees when crafting budgets" (30). Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz also spoke out against eliminating collective bargaining rights, saying that local officials neither want not need this change (31). You can read the letter that these local officials (over 300 and counting) have signed by visiting savelocalcontrol.org (32).
Protesters again filled the Capitol today to make their voices heard. In addition to those who were physically present, over 10,000 messages from people regarding the Budget Repair Bil were posted throughout the halls of the Capitol for all to read. The above image captures only a small portion of the covered walls.
Protesters prepared for another weekend at the Capitol. As seen above, a number of protesters who are avid knitters brought their needles and yarn and started knitting together. Others chose to meditate together along one of the 2nd floor walkways. Police began restricting access to the Capitol building at night today, moving all protesters who stayed overnight to the first and second floors so that the upper levels could be cleaned. This change in access comes after the legislature passed a new measure this week that would allow the building to be closed except during normal business hours (8AM - 6PM) (34).
(Click above for the full-size image)
Despite snow and cold temperatures, over 70,000 protesters turned out at the Capitol today to protect collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin (33). The official police count simply says "in excess of 70,000" but being among the crowd I felt it was larger than that (and compared to last weekend) (33). The line to get into the Capitol stretched deep as officials continued to restrict access to one entrance and limit the numbers inside.
Access to the Capitol building was restricted and the building was closed on Sunday at 4PM. Numerous protesters chose to voluntarily leave, to the chorus of "Thank You" chants from protesters outside the building as they left. However, 600 protesters refused to leave the building. Despite plans to close the building and clear out all protesters that night, police allowed those 600 remaining inside to stay and sleep in a more restricted area (35).
Despite plans to reopen the Capitol during normal business hours, the Capitol remained closed today (36). The cold weather did not deter protesters, who showed up outside the building waiting to be allowed inside. When it became apparent that the doors would not open, then held the daily protest outside instead.
Protesters gathered again on Tuesday outside the Capitol building, waiting to be allowed inside. The question of whether or not it is a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution to close this public building was taken to court today, though no ruling has been forthcoming yet (37). Crowds gathered around the Capitol building itself, protesting as Gov. Walker announced his budget. You can read the transcript of his budget announcement here (38). The total consequences of this budget are not yet known, but it is clear that large cuts have been made to education and local governments (39).
Protesters were still not allowed inside the Capitol on Wednesday, except in limited one-for-one exchanges (40). Because their constituents were not being allowed inside the building, Democratic legislators moved their desks outside of the Capitol building today so that their constituents could reach them (41). Protesters continued to show up at the Capitol, despite cold temperatures. In addition, around 30 protesters have continued to sleep outside the Capitol each night, using only sleeping bags since the police would not permit them to use tents on the Capitol grounds (42).
(Click above for the full-size image)
Gov. Scott Walker has repeatedly justified his Budget Repair Bill and new Fiscal Budget by claiming that the state of Wisconsin is broke and thus cannot negotiate (27, 38). A new report today by Politifact disputes that claim (43). They have gathered data from a variety of experts, both local to the state of Wisconsin, and national. One of the places they gather data from was a report released by Moody's in January 2011 (44). In the report, Moody's ranked all of the 50 states based on their fiscal health. The report found that "Wisconsin?s rating was 37th as measured by the amount of debt per capita, 38th (debt by GDP) 39 (by personal income) and 41 (by revenue)." (43). Based on this measure of fiscal health, the state of Wisconsin is actually fairing well compared with other states and considering the economic recession. I highly recommend that you read the full article on Politifact yourself. Their conclusion is as follows (43):
Walker and other Republicans say the state is broke, so broke that there?s no money, and because there?s no money, they are unwilling to negotiate over the terms of the budget-repair bill. Experts agree the state faces financial challenges in the form of deficits. But they also agree the state isn?t broke. Employees and bills are being paid. Services are continuing to be performed. Revenue continues to roll in. A variety of tools -- taxes, layoffs, spending cuts, debt shifting -- is available to make ends meet. Walker has promised not to increase taxes. That takes one tool off the table. Another tool was never there: declaring bankruptcy. We?re not broke or bankrupt in part because under federal law we can?t be.
A Dane County judge ruled today that the state "closed the Capitol impermissibly" and that it must be re-opened to protesters during normal business hours no later than Monday at 8AM (45, 46). The feel inside the Capitol today is very different. Everyone must pass through increased security, including airport-style metal detection. Significantly fewer people are choosing to go inside, but rather continue to protest outside the building instead. Senate Republicans passed a measure ordering the arrest of any of the 14 Democratic Senators if they return to the state (47). The constitutionality of this measure is sharply disputed, because the senators have committed no crime (47).
Large crowds gathered at the Capitol for a third straight Saturday. Estimates place the number of people around 40,000-50,000, though to me it felt very similar to the first Saturday which had 68,000 (49, 52). The energy of the crowd was stronger than ever, and most people marched around the square in the street. Michael Moore arrived unexpectedly and spoke about the increasing disparity of wealth in America, which he argues is destroying the ability of millions of Americans to pursue the "American Dream" (48, transcript - 50, video - 51).
Large crowds gathered again this Sunday (estimated at 5,700 people), with postal workers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and elsewhere joining the crowds in solidarity to protect their union rights (53, 54). A pro-Walker rally was held at the Alliant Energy Center, though only around 200-500 pro-Walker supporters were present with pro-union protesters outside the Alliant Energy Center for a counter-rally (53, 54, 55).
The numbers were smaller today, but protesters still showed up at the Capitol and continued their march around the square. This man illustrates well how the protesters are not just unionized workers, but many non-unionized workers from the private sector and retired people have come to show their support of public sector workers. Today I also came upon a speech that Ronald Reagan gave in 1980 where he directly addressed collective bargaining rights. Reagan said:
"Restoring the American dream requires more than restoring a sound, productive economy, vitally important as that is. It requires a return to spiritual and moral values, values so deeply held by those who came here to build a new life. We need to restore those values in our daily life, in our neighborhoods and in our government?s dealings with the other nations of the world. These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland. The values that have inspired other dissidents under Communist domination. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost" (56).
One cannot easily misinterpret Reagan's words; his message is clear: the right to collectively bargain is a core value of the founding fathers of the United States. Why then, did Gov. Walker say this to his fellow Republicans at a dinner party at the Governor's Mansion:
"I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers" (57).
Clearly, Gov. Walker holds Ronald Reagan in very high regard, perhaps to go as far as to call him the role model for which is he basing his current policies. Why then, is he attempting to remove the "freedom" that Reagan claimed is such a core American value? The situation in which President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers is different - they were striking. None of the public workers in Wisconsin were striking or have been striking (despite the threat of the loss of their collective bargaining rights). They simply are asking to retain a voice as employees. Moreover, Reagan was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, a union, and served as president of it for 6 terms (58, 59). If Gov. Walker seeks to create a strong economy by following in the footsteps of Reagan, then he should remove the provision from the budget repair bill which strips collective bargaining from public employees.
(due to a prior commitment, I was unable to be present at the Capitol today)
The Republican senators removed the fiscal portions of Gov. Walker's Budget Repair Bill but left in the portion which removes almost all collective bargaining rights for public workers (60). Moreover, they left in the part of the bill which requires state employees to pay more towards their healthcare and pensions (60). These both seem very much like fiscal issues, but the Senate Republicans are claiming they are not fiscal, which is how they passed this version of the bill this evening without any of the 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats. Gov. Walker's office had previous stated the exact opposite, claiming that "collective bargaining has a fiscal impact" (63). The legality and constitutionality of this move is questionable also, because a state law requires that all committee meetings be announced 24 hours in advance (or at least 2 hours for extreme cases), which this meeting was not (60). You can watch a video of this meeting here (62). In protest of this extreme and perhaps illegal maneuver, over 7,000 protesters raced into the Capitol building and refused to leave tonight (61). Madison Police are not stopping the protesters, instead choosing to let their voices be heard and make sure everyone stays safe (61). The state Assembly is set to take up this new bill tomorrow morning at 11:00AM (60).
Although the bill passed the Assembly today, protesters continued to march in number at the Capitol (64). It is well documented previously in this article that Gov. Walker repeatedly cited the reason for removing collective bargaining rights was to balance the budget (3, 8, 63). Let me be absolutely clear, he unequivocally stated that the reason collective bargaining needed to be removed was for fiscal reasons to solve the state's budget problems (3, 8, 63). Recently, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald showed that justification to be false, when he revealed on Fox News that the real reason the Republicans were working so hard to eliminate collective bargaining was for political gain - to undermine one of the largest support groups of the Democratic Party - unions (65). Moreover, the Republicans further proved that this is a political agenda for them when they removed the fiscal portions of the bill, but passed the part which eliminates collective bargaining (60). If this were really about fixing the budget, why would they remove the parts of the bill that deal with state finances? Moreover, why are they not voting on those things immediately now that the Democratic senators have returned?
(due to a prior commitment, I was unable to be present at the Capitol today but I found this video of the events today on YouTube)
The local branch of M&I bank, one of the largest contributors to Scott Walker's campaign, has closed its doors today because a large number of Madison firefighters and some private citizens marched to the downtown location and withdrew all of their money in protest against Gov. Walker's attack on public workers' collective bargaining rights (66). The total amount of money withdrawn was estimated at $192,000, though additional withdrawals have been taking place since then (66). Moreover, local Madison pilot Jeff Skiles announced that he I'll be withdrawing his $400,000 and closing all of his accounts at M&I Bank next week (67).
This Saturday marked the largest day of protestors yet. Farmers, some driving 7 hours or more, rode their tractors around the square to protest the budget repair bill and new budget bill (69). The square was literally packed with people, and as always it amazed me to see people of all ages and walks of life. The official police report estimated the crowd at 85,000 - 100,000 people, but I think it was larger than that (69). Each Saturday, either a close friend or I have walked completely around the square to get an idea of how many people are present on all sides. The shaded areas below illustrate where I saw people packed in dense groups with very little open space. I want to illustrate this because the official police report for the first Saturday, Feb. 19th, estimated the crowd then at 68,000 (15). As you can see, I noticed that number decrease on the following weekend, but then increase and surpass the first weekend the last two times. Based on the police's estimate from that initial weekend (Feb. 19th), the same measurement would put over 130,000 people on the square today, not even including those packing State Street. It was an incredible experience to look down State Street and see an ocean of people that stretched as far as the eye could see to Library Mall. Another great way to get a sense of the size of the crowd today and be more immersed in the experience is to view the interactive 3d panorama at this website, specifically the view titled "Return Rally Overview" (73). The 14 Wisconsin Senators had just returned from Illinois, and spoke about the continued struggle to protect workers rights now that the bill has passed (70). Tony Shalhoub, a Green Bay native and actor best known for his beloved character "Monk", spoke out against the attack against workers, illustrating his sister, a teacher, as an example of the character and hard-working nature of the people who have lost their collective bargaining rights (71, 72). Neither I nor ABC 27 (the local ABC station in Madison) saw a single pro-Walker supporter on the Capitol Square today (I watched this clip on ABC WKOW 27 when it aired live, and cannot find it again on their website).
I also want to reference an article from Fox News - an organization which typically supports conservative policies - which does an excellent job of explaining why collective bargaining is so important and how it helps all workers, not just those in unions (68).
Today the Tea Party held a counter-protest at the King St. entrance of the Capitol supporting Scott Walker's attempt to eliminate collective bargaining for public workers. Their message focused on limited government and a strong national defense (74). Sarah Palin, former vice presidential candidate came and spoke to the crowd. Pro-workers' rights protesters also gathered at the Capitol today to once again stand up against the elimination of collective bargaining (74). The Capitol Police reported the total crowd size at 6,500, though they were not able to distinguish a number of Tea Party supporters or Workers' Rights supporters (74). Based on the numerous signs I saw and location of the Tea Party rally, I have created this map to illustrate the proportion of protesters in each group as well as the location and size of each group. Pro-Workers' Rights supporters are highlighted in yellow, while Tea Party supporters are highlighted in red:
As you can see, the Pro-Workers' Rights protesters surrounded the Tea party protesters and also staged their own counter-rally on the State St. side of the Capitol (74):
Far Reaching Consequences
In addition to affecting public workers and their families, I have also been reading about how the elimination of collective bargaining rights would affect others in the community. A good example is students - without collective bargaining rights, teachers would have no say in the size of their classes or the way resources are allocated which would lead to poorer school environment and inferior education (25). Don't simply read the cited source, however, go ask teachers you know about how these changes would affect their classrooms and their ability to effectively teach students. Another "3rd party" consequence would be the massive cuts to the state public transportation system (as I outlined at the beginning of this article), which thousands of people (including myself) rely on daily to get to work.
Having attended and participated in these protests for 8 consecutive days now, I have observed some things about the nature and behavior of the protesters. These are things you probably won't hear about in the national press as those reporters are not able to be on the scene in as much detail (or for as long) to make these observations:
- Not Just Madison: The protesters at the Capitol building are not just people from Madison. They come from many cities across Wisconsin. I saw signs for people from Neenah, Milwaukee and Green Bay among others, but I also saw signs for teachers from Chicago and LA. On Saturday I spoke with a woman who drove all the way from Massachusetts with her two kids to participate in the protests because she fears her state is next. I'm sure there were many more people that I did not get a chance to talk with who would share similar stories.
- All Ages and Walks of Life: I've seen so many people from so many different backgrounds and ages at the protests. I have seen students, baby boomers, and people from the older generations. This protest spans more than any one demographic group.
- Peaceful Protests: Throughout this whole time, the protests have been peaceful. In fact, the police issued "a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights" (20). The feeling is mutual, as I heard many people walking up to the police officers around the Capitol and thanking them for their hard work. The message of peace is abundant throughout the Capitol - with many signs reading "This is a peaceful protest" on the walls and on the shirts and signs of protesters. There has been no violence and no arrests during the protests (20).
- Attitude of Protesters: The attitude of protesters is unlike anything I have heard of before. Everyone is very friendly and I have seen numerous people going around with trash bags and collecting garbage (of which there is little). Moreover, many people have volunteered to be Marshals, walking around the Capitol and making sure everyone is behaving appropriately and treating the building itself with respect. I saw a Marshal walking around on Saturday night, removing each individual sign from the wall, removing the tape on the sign, and then re-hanging it with masking tape in order to better protect the marble structure of the building.
4 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_b374eb56-3ac9-11e0-9045-001cc4c03286.html]
7 - [http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/blog/article_f781c134-3880-11e0-92b1-001cc4c002e0.html]
8 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_de45ba12-3935-11e0-9b64-001cc4c002e0.html]
9 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/article_e3cfe584-3953-11e0-9284-001cc4c03286.html]
10 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/article_c40c09e4-3a43-11e0-91c0-001cc4c002e0.html]
11 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_01c093f0-3ac0-11e0-ba01-001cc4c002e0.html]
12 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_44106820-392b-11e0-9479-001cc4c002e0.html]
13 - [http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/blog/article_0b783598-3bb4-11e0-b872-001cc4c03286.html]
15 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_a05349be-3be1-11e0-b0a1-001cc4c002e0.html]
16 - [http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Wisconsin_Workers_Protest_End_To_Collective_Bargaining_116238579.html]
20 - [http://www.cityofmadison.com/news/view.cfm?news_id=2512]
23 - [http://www.wuwm.com/programs/news/view_news.php?articleid=7867]
33 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_19c56fb6-41d7-11e0-820b-001cc4c03286.html]
34 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_b785247a-404d-11e0-91f6-001cc4c03286.html]
35 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_f1def2c4-42bc-11e0-b8d7-001cc4c002e0.html]
37 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_fed3c5b0-4486-11e0-8a0e-001cc4c03286.html]
39 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_5abf01a0-444b-11e0-9c33-001cc4c03286.html]
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41 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/collection_f08022c4-4521-11e0-b821-001cc4c002e0.html]
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46 - [http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_4001cebe-466d-11e0-92aa-001cc4c002e0.html]
47 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_8d9ad090-45bd-11e0-bf68-001cc4c03286.html]
49 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_8a60e128-4791-11e0-9892-001cc4c002e0.html]
53 - [http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_e84ef670-48c3-11e0-8dad-001cc4c002e0.html]
57 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/article_531276b6-3f6a-11e0-b288-001cc4c002e0.html]
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63 - [http://walker.wi.gov/journal_media_detail.asp?prid=5675&locid=177]
64 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_4821b170-4b60-11e0-9fba-001cc4c002e0.html]
66 - [http://www.dane101.com/current/2011/03/10/firefighters_target_mi_bank_for_executive_support_of_walker]
69 - [http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_9f189108-4cbc-11e0-b9b8-001cc4c002e0.html]
70 - [http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_fd231822-4d11-11e0-aeb0-001cc4c002e0.html]
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75 - [http://media.jsonline.com/documents/Finnegan_3-5-11.pdf]
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