Monday, February 21, 2011
We all wanna change the world
Most people are probably aware of the protests that have been going on for a week now in Madison, over Governor Scott Walker's "budget" bill. My mom has worked in Wisconsin public schools for more than twenty-five years, so I don't think I need to explain where my support lies. I've had friends out there daily, marching and holding up signs in support of our state's workers and unions. On Saturday I went downtown to take part myself, thinking it would be interesting to see everything firsthand. Well, it was more than interesting. It was amazing.
It might seem odd considering what's at stake, but the mood around the capitol was overwhelmingly upbeat. I think people understand that no matter what happens, the very act of coming together in support of something they truly believe is vitally important. One sign I saw said it well: "You can take my money, but you can't take my voice!" Everybody was polite. More polite and friendly than your typical Saturday on State Street, for sure. Considerate of people crossing the streets, of everyone in the crowd. There was a union-sponsored van set up on Wisconsin Ave with a grill, handing out free brats to a long line of people. There was free bottled water there. I saw another man set up on a bench on the square, making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for anybody who wanted one. Ian's Pizza on State Street has set up an online system for people to buy pizza for the protesters on the square, and they've been selling out.
Folks were handing out signs printed up by WEAC, and thousands of people had their own homemade signs. Some mentioned where the protesters came from ... Wauwatosa, Kenosha, Minnesota, even Mississippi. And there were so many families. Speakers were set up along the square, playing a sort of protest mix ... the Beatles' "Revolution," "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Some of the marchers had drums and tambourines. There were lines of Union cabs driving around a block away, honking and waving, to mass cheers from the crowd. Many cars honking on Dayton as they drove past. For a few minutes I stood near firemen who were waving flags. The many police officers around were relaxed and friendly. They seemed more like spectators.
Sixty thousand people congregated downtown on Saturday - from both sides, although anti-Walker protesters far outnumbered supporters - and no arrests were made. Nobody was injured. The Madison Police department actually issued a statement in praise of the crowd. That's incredible to me. Even if I'm ashamed of our governor, I'm so proud of Wisconsin right now.