Yesterday proved to be quite the sea change in terms of the tenor of events at the Capitol. After just over two weeks of peaceful protests against Gov. Walker's budget "repair" bill and nothing but praise from Capitol and Madison Police toward the demonstrators, orders from on high came down and put the building into lock-down.
I think a lot of us saw this coming, though I can't say I knew when it would happen. The combination of Walker deciding to actually give his budget speech in the Capitol tomorrow instead of at an off-site corporate location, and the ever building size of the protests and public outcry against the bill in general, an increase in security seems inevitable.
Inevitable, but unneccessesary.
Despite excessive right-wing / FOX News spin that "union thugs" at the protests have been violent and threatening, vandalising the Capitol and generally inciting chaos - no such activity has occurred. Unless you count knitting circles, morning yoga, drums, and binge pizza eating to be "chaos."
As I mentioned before, when the police aren't off-duty and joining the protests, they're praising participants for being peaceful and respectful. I've visited the rotunda almost every day since this whole thing began and I can tell you that every sign has been posted using blue, non-damaging painter's tape. I've witnessed protesters scrubbing the floors, collecting trash (indoors and out), thanking the cleaning crew, giving medical assistance, and generally being really wonderful human beings.
The worst I've witnessed were a few heated shouting matches between protesters and Walker supporters, but those have been few and far between and generally ended in someone intervening to calm things down.
A FOX News reporter claims to have been punched by a protester, but conveniently when his audio feed was still on but the camera was not. There have been no arrests and very few citations given.
Because when those in power via weak and small-minded aspirations feel threatened, the first thing they do is attempt to silence any and all opposition. What they seem to fail to recognize, time and time again, is that by doing so they simply highlight just how shaky the ground upon which they stand truly is.
Why ignore hundreds of thousands of opposition voices, several polls, and heaps of data to the contrary so much that it begins to make it pretty damn clear that you've had no intention of negotiating or compromising or even looking for another path from the very beginning?
Because Walker isn't doing any of this to balance the state budget. He's not doing this to be fiscally conservative.
He's doing this because he's an ideologue with no sense of public service, only personal ambition.
The Senate Democrats have done us all a huge favor by remaining out-of-state during this time and forcing Walker to go on the defensive. His threats and bluster only serve to prove just how much of a bully he really is, and how destructive his plans are.
Too much of the mainstream media has not done us as much of a favor, barely acknowledging the more crucial facts of the debate (like how unions have now twice offered to accept contribution increases) and giving more airtime to pro-bill voices than those opposed - that is, when they're not spinning yarns events on the ground.
In the meantime, average Wisconsin citizens continue to speak out - last night even camping outside the Capitol in nothing but sleeping bags (tents are apparently forbidden on the grounds) since they weren't allowed into the rotunda. I don't know if you remember, folks, but it's still winter. That's some hardcore stuff right there.
It's more important than ever - especially as Walker later today drops the other shoe in his budget speech and announces billions of dollars in cuts to aid for health care for the poor and public schools, among other things - for people to make their voices heard.
Write your local newspapers, call your representatives, post to blogs, sign petitions, knock on doors, protest, organize! Even with lackluster mainstream press coverage, the Wisconsin Idea, this marvelous movement we've constructed almost from whole cloth, is catching on nationally. It's time to take the momentum and run with it - right past those security checkpoints and into the very halls of power.
Peacefully. Mindfully. Purposefully.
Because they won't stop trying, neither should we.
Tuesday access to the Capitol extremely limited
A source who works at the Capitol tells me this:
According to an email sent out last night by the sergeant-at-arms, she's "not quite sure" how tomorrow will play out. On Monday the rules changed every 15 minutes. Visitors wishing to speak at the public hearing being held by the Democrats in the Assembly will be escorted from the King St. entrance directly to and from the hearing room by page staff.
The number of people allowed in the room at a given time will be based on seats, which, in this case, is "maybe 40." Each representative's or senator's office is allotted eight badges, which will be worn by people wishing to speak. "It seems mass entrance to the Capitol is not going to be happening."