Monthly Archives: February 2011

late monday as it gets colder and uglier in Madison

Although I’ve been sick, my spouse and I decided to go to the 6pm rally for a while. It’s been in the 20s today — not all that bad for here — but it is supposed to get down to 12 overnight. (That’s in Fahrenheit, or -11 for the rest of the world.) It is clear that the goal of clearing the Capitol is to get dissident voices out for the Governor’s budget message tomorrow. Rumors are flying. Continue reading

policing, repression & solidarity

It’s getting tense today in Madison. The Department of Administration (not the Capitol Police) has issued a series of orders that have the effect of not allowing protesters into the Capitol and of making things tough for the few still inside. People who are authorized to enter by a legislator are being escorted in and out, not permitted to stay and join the protest. There are rumors that the small numbers still inside are being played on national media (FOX anyone?) as a sign of diminished protest enthusiasm. The police and protesters are trying to work ways around this, but the police are following orders and are apparently unwilling not to follow orders. Protesters accuse the Governor of trying to force a confrontation between police and protesters. There are actually lines in the Wisconsin Constitution that say that the Capitol must be open to the public so groups are filing suit to get court orders to reopen the Capitol. In short, even police who side with the protesters can engage in repression if they follow orders.  The commitment to peacefulness and cooperation has been the protest’s strength, but this commitment has [edit: I discovered this sentence fragment: the sentence should end with something like, but may be its undoing? or . . .  opens questions about this strategy?]

The Governor will be giving his budget message tomorrow and he is hoping to have a clear field. A rally has been called for 6.

policing a protest

I thought some of you would enjoy this local color on police-protester relations in Madison. From the article’s conclusion: “Members of the national media who were present to cover the arrests complained that there was no story here. They’re missing the point. The Governor ordered the Capitol closed and everyone in it ejected. Protestors didn’t leave, and the police didn’t make them. As I prepared to leave, I passed a few dozen protestors waiting in line for free pizza. As with everything else the protestors have done in the last two weeks, the line was peaceful.” By the way, the local group blog from which this comes, http://www.dane101.com is a good source of on the ground reports.

protest friday

Depending on your preferred news source, the “story” in Wisconsin is the ongoing legislative standoff and/or the building national solidarity movement. Here on the ground, it’s that, yes, but a lot more. From a state worker’s perspective and a social services for the needy perspective, there is no way this can end well, and a lot of ways it can end extremely badly. Continue reading

what, harvard, no fanfare this time?

Harvard has decided to start admitting applicants early again. Princeton immediately followed. In their announcement about eliminating early applications back in 2006, Harvard spoke of the “fairness” of such a move. The argument was that early admissions is a mechanism for richer people to have an easier time getting into college, either because of financial aid (whose decisions come in much later), access to information, or quality of college counseling. Harvard was right in 2006. I suspect they thought more people would follow their lead, and only Princeton and UVA made serious efforts to. That’s over now. Not as much of a celebration this time. Probably because they’ve given up on a significant step to create greater class equality in higher education.

madison and back to disparities

Quote of the evening (partly paraphrased): “I know you sat around and let Walker get elected. You-all didn’t think Walker was going to hurt YOU-all, just us Black and Brown and poor people.”

This seemed fitting, as I’ve been party to many political conversations about the narrowing of the protest to the collective bargaining issue. Continue reading

hitting close to home from 925 miles away

As I watch the protests from Madison (and get updates from our very own on-the-ground correspondent), I am amazed at the resolution and determination of the protestors. In no small part because watching what is happening in Madison affects good friends dearly and gives the rest of us pause to think about what kind of country we want to live in.

With deference to President Obama, this isn’t an “assault on unions;” this is an assault on the fundamental idea of equality in our country.

Unions are the medium through which equality is accomplished, not the end in themselves. I don’t support unions because they are unions; I support unions because they are one of the few institutions in this country that create a playing field that is anything close to level. This protest hits particularly close to home for me. I include among my friends members, leaders, and staff at TAA, as well as their sister union from UW-Milwaukee the MGAA. There are not two more capable and energetic locals.

Continue reading

protest food & supplies

If you are following this story, you may have read that people from all around the world have been ordering pizza for the protesters; one pizza firm has now stopped doing any other business. But at least the grad students in the TAA are getting tired of pizza and have finally found the time to set up a PayPal account to accept donations for other kinds of food, plus the other supplies and expenses of protesting. If you are so inclined, here’s the link: http://www.helpdefendwisconsin.org They’d appreciate it if you share the link.

This is, of course, NOT tax-deductible.

wisconsin governor taking a page from china and egypt

My Facebook feed tells me that the public wireless network at the Capitol is now blocking access to at least one of the protest coordination web sites.

wisconsin nice

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 Continue reading

madison saturday mini-update

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. Continue reading

madison friday 2

Here are some more notes from Friday’s Madison rally. I spent longer writing this, so it is longer. I think I’ll re-arrange out of chronological order to include the part of the most general interest first. The minority of you with a taste for my more personal musings 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 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.”  (corrected to “Assembly Democrats Standing Up for 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 Assembly Democrats* 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.

* Sorry for the goofs, I typed this quickly in a 30 minute break.

madison protests update

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 day 4

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 many Wisconsin school districts in southern Wisconsin have closed although the Milwaukee system insisted on staying open despite teachers asking them to close.. 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.

edited to fix the misinformation about Milwaukee Public Schools. 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.

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