The Information Station, located inside the State Capitol, is a hive of activity.
The Wisconsin state Capitol rotunda after dark looks much the same as it does during daylight hours these days. Keep the drums and chants, subtract about half the protestors, add in several tired-eyed toddlers and some sleeping bags, and you've got the picture.
"I just took all my stuff and moved in here," says UW-Madison junior Vali Nashat.
Nestled onto a carpet of blankets in a pillow-cushioned corner of the second floor, Nashat says he hasn't spent a night away from the Capitol floor since protestors staged the first "sleep-in" Tuesday.
While others in the blanket nook settle in with laptops and textbooks, Nashat and a few friends sit on the edge, talking politics and the protest so far.
"It's so different from other protests," muses John Lendved, a UW-Madison senior. "At other rallies people come, they yell their chants, and they leave. Here I've seen people helping with clean up. They want to help."
Not only do the Capitol protestors "want" to help, they're organized and ready to serve. Thanks to several enterprising groups and a lot of cooperative individuals, the Capitol rotunda now boasts garbage collection, recycling, a community food bank, water supplies, lost and found, an information services station, and more.
Much of the organization can be credited to the Information Station, a group that began in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and has only grown since.
"It started with information on school closings and the public hearings … and it really just evolved from that," Information Station volunteer Jenny Wustmann says. "We really have grown just in the past couple days."
From straight information, the Station has blossomed into a full-fledged civil service whose offerings include trash pickup, food and water donation collection, and education. At the Information Station's central location, volunteers answer questions while signs offer up information, earplugs, and even "crayons and toys for your kids."
"We're basically trying to keep informed and as organized as possible," Wustmann says. Meanwhile, the UW-Madison's Teaching Assistants' Association has set up its own impressive home base, decking out an upper-level conference room with everything from wifi to printers… plus a few napping TAs.
All around the Capitol's halls, signs keep protestors informed of "talking points" for Saturday's rally, the hallmarks of nonviolent protesting, where to find trash bags, and more. Friday night, protestors staying over even had a printed itinerary of suggested activities:
- 10:00 pm and 12:00 am - Non-violent demonstration training lessons (Room 200N)
- 11:00 pm and 1:00 am - General Info/Question and Answer Session (Room 200N)
- 12:00 am Midnight Movie: Harland County, USA (Ground Floor Hallway North)
Nashat, Lendved and others accepted the flyers with thanks, and pointed eagerly toward the demonstration training before lapsing into discussion of what to expect the following day.
No doubt they'll wake up to the sound of drums, and be the first to know.