The videographer Matt Wisniewski has captured the elusive beauty and Solidarity that thousands have sheltered and tended here. This is a fragile fire that people across the state, the nation, and the world have watched and now call their own.
This has been the heart of Wisconsin’s Capitol building and the heart of my city. It is also the heart of a new fight to maintain Democracy in the face of a corporatist charge detonated here in November 2010. The soldiers in that charge are known by their yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and their red, white and blue WalMart shirts.
They’ve made a show of respect for “the constitution” and installed one of their own in our highest office. But their principled beliefs didn’t emerge when access to the public’s state Capitol building was severely curtailed this week. Walker’s administration segmented off the appropriate public from what he decided was inappropriate, blocking thousands from entry, and then claimed the public’s government house was still “open”. Our 24-hour gathering was not only doused, all of Wisconsin’s public became guilty before proven innocent of Progressivism. After a drawn-out legal proceeding in the past week, it was proclaimed last night:
…the Capitol must fully reopen at 8 AM Monday morning lest the DOA be held in contempt of court.
This new compromise between 24-hour occupation of the Capitol and the unconstitutional lock-down that Walker and the DOA tried to impose this week can be maintained indefinitely. It really only needs to be maintained for the next 18 months or so, which is how long the various recalls will take to finish before we have a Democratic Senate and Governor
I gathered from lefan-o-rama that roughly 8,000 protested last night at the Capitol. The 8,000 marched from the UW-Madison campus to the Capitol building with local merchants on State Street leaning out of doors to cheer them on.
Ten minutes into a speech while all assembled to listen on the Capitol lawn, an unknown protester burst through the doors to the State Street entrance and ushered people into the closed Capitol building and it became flooded with people again. However, within minutes the Chief of Police of the Capitol, Chief Tubbs, urged everyone to leave lawfully and about 100 remained inside.Eventually, after more discussion with Chief Tubbs and Attorney Peg Lautenschlauger, the assembled 100 also exited willingly.
The digs into who these protesters are – claims that they’re partiers or slobs- are so galling because these people are so earnest. In fact, they are less than a blocks from a high density of debauched and vapid party bars and frat houses so infamous that the UW Madison campus has made it to national “partying” lists. There is little about standing in the cold Winter holding a sign or sleeping on a floor in the Capitol to attract the true party people.
And the party people don’t burst into houses of government to risk arrest.
These people are frightened of losing their hold on Wisconsin. I’m sure at this point I risk melodrama. The sort of words that want to be typed remind me of letters I’ve read from the civil war.
But I am hard-pressed to imagine – for any reason, and in any time – giving up the values of public education for all, the right for people to assemble and use their public spaces, the right for workers to collectively bargain, and a Wisconsin and and American social contract that provides a net to catch our most vulnerable.
I’m frightened that the New Normal of The Right is dragging us closer to a reality we reject. If they push us over it, from there we will be so marginalized and beaten, we may never claw our way back to Progressive values.
Something in the U.S. snapped when the twin towers were bombed. In a similar way, a shift in me occurred when Gabby Giffords was shot. And a galvanizing shift is occurring in me and in many waking Wisconsinites now.
We’re not turning back. We’re not leaving. We must win.