Their chant was probably audible all the way out in Sun Prairie.
The West Wing's Bradley Whitford and two Hollywood friends joined in the protest against Gov. Scott Walker during Saturday's massive rally at the Capitol. As members of the Screen Actors Guild, Whitford, Gabrielle Carteris (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Robert Newman (The Guiding Light) claimed solidarity with the sign-carrying Wisconsinites incensed by Walker's union-curbing budget bill.
Despite snow and freezing temperatures, the rally looked even bigger than last Saturday's 70,000-plus. Protesters stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the streets, the Capitol grounds and the State Street steps, remaining a remarkably well-behaved legion. (Every time people accidentally bumped into me, they said, "Sorry!" or patted me on the shoulder.) Many of the signs were familiar after a couple weeks of daily demonstrations, including "Fox News Will Lie About This" and "Walker's Got a Koch Habit," referring the governor's billionaire business backers. But I appreciated the occasional stabs at originality, such as the woman in a fur coat with a sign attached identifying her as "Mrs. Koch."
Whitford introduced himself as a graduate of Madison's East High, and he thanked the 800 East students who recently left school to protest at the Capitol. As a Madison native, he said, he took it personally when he heard that Walker was favoring his "billionaire sugar daddies" at the expense of Wisconsin workers.
No one could doubt Whitford's passion. He gave a barn-burner of a speech, starting a call-and-response of "this will not stand!" He tore into the governor for "using the budget as a Trojan horse to deny American workers a seat at the table."
"Let's let 'em hear it over in Maple Bluff!" Whitford shouted, and the crowd didn't disappoint. In fact, their chant was probably audible all the way out in Sun Prairie.
Carteris echoed the commonly heard local critique of Walker's budget bill by noting that "this is not about money; this is about power." And Newman offered a bit of Hollywood-style flattery that could only make us Cheeseheads blush:
"I've been watching you on the television for the last week, and you look great!" he told the demonstrators. "The hair department, the lighting department -- this must be a union production!"