Location: Wisconsin State Capitol; Madison WI
March 1, day 15- People are writing protest messages on Post-It Notes and leaving them on the State Capitol’s locked doors (very popular kid activity). The governor, the focus of the protests, ordered the Capitol closed to the public (and Democrat Legislature/staff) on February 28. A judge has ruled the action as unconstitutional, but the governor remains defiant. People cannot access their government representatives and some have been sleeping on the steps in front of the doors, waiting to get inside.
You’ve probably been living in a cave on a deserted South Pacific atoll on the equator if you don’t know that Wisconsin is in the midst of troubling times. Citizens from the State and around the country have been protesting the new Governor’s budget repair bill since February 14. As a State Employee who works 2 blocks from the Capitol, I am in the thick of it.
Contrary to some media reports, there is no rioting and nothing is burning in Madison except people’s passion. The “rioters” are so vicious, that police are bringing in water and food to feed the protestors they are supposedly forcibly removing from the premises. The protests have been very peaceful, with only 9 arrests for minor misdemeanors this entire time, zero on Feb. 19 when 70,000 protested at the Capitol. Protestors are singing, dancing, loudly chanting and cleaning the Capitol and grounds (we call it The Square), cleaning even trash hidden under snow for weeks previous. Many protest signs, costumes and videos are very creative and clever.
Many people think the controversy is over increased contributions for public employee benefits. It is much more. The 144 pages bill includes cuts for school aide ($900 million), local municipalities, public transportation (Madison bus system stands to lose over $7 million alone), Medicaid restructure and cuts, selling public power plants, restructure the University system. Also at issue is the rapid rate that legislation is being passed in Wisconsin since the governor was inaugurated, in a week or less, many without public testimony, hearing, floor debate or willingness to negotiate compromises. This is the reason why the 14 Democrat Senators fled the State; without a quorum, the bill could not be voted on, the process slowed and work out a compromise. So far, the governor has shown no interest in compromise; it’s only want he wants and nothing else.