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.