It may be the most compelling raw video yet to emerge from protests against Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's provocative budget and policy proposals. Captured on Wednesday, March 1, by local photographer and videographer @philgarlic, an Isthmus contributor), it depicts 12 harrowing minutes in the life of Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman yesterday as he is heckled, pursued and cornered outside the Capitol by demonstrators chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!"
The first time you watch the scenario unfold, you get a sense that all the effort and patience invested in keeping the protests peaceful could be undone in one isolated moment of furious anger. A subsequent viewing suggests how fragile that peace may yet prove.
"I don't think it necessarily would've gotten outright violent," observes Ejercito, "but it was getting ridiculously tense." This is evident in his video, as the volume of the chants and pandemonium build toward something that could have ended much worse if state Rep. Brett Hulsey, a Democrat, had not intervened and talked the small but outraged posse down from the peak of its outrage.
The video is all the more riveting because Ejercito manages to get his camera right in the thick of the drama. "There wasn't a single instant in which I felt threatened," he reflects. "My only concern for myself was not becoming part of the story by getting my camera too close."Even in flat-out "go mode," Ejercito says, he remembers being worried at one point that the tinderbox might have sparked into a melee of pushing and shoving -- but hoping it would not come to that. "I think he has the right to be pretty rattled about it," he says of Grothman, the subject of a cover story by Jack Craver in this week's Isthmus (dated March 4, available at newsstands Thursday).
Uploaded to YouTube yesterday, Ejercito's video "went pretty viral last night," he reports. It's the sort of footage that some partisans might crave to bolster their contentions that the Wisconsin Capitol protests of the past two weeks have been anything but peaceful. Fox News has been "leaning on me pretty hard," he notes.
Ejercito is much more generous toward Hulsey for defusing the rage directed toward Grothman. "I'm not some Hulsey fanboy," he says, noting his disagreement with the Democratic state representative on several issues. But for demonstrating the guts to stand between the protesters and Grothman while bringing the situation under control, Ejercito adds, "I cannot give enough praise to Hulsey."