Demonstrators opposed to Gov. Scott Walker's agenda for Wisconsin gathered at the Capitol for a fifth consecutive Saturday, opening with a protest led by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) that sought to "connect the dots" between wartime spending and the deficit at home. Veterans for Peace, Firefighters for Labor, and several other groups joined in for a march up State Street, pausing in front of the Capitol to raise fingers and fists in signs of peace and solidarity.
As protesters cheered and chanted "Thank you!" the veterans paraded around the Capitol to King Street, where they mounted a podium to introduce themselves and express their solidarity with unions and their supporters protesting in downtown Madison over the last month.
"I find it deplorable that we can drop bombs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every day, while children are starving here in America," shouted one member of the National Guard. "Scott Walker, you don't need to call the National Guard, 'cuz we're already here!" announced another to loud cheers from the crowd.
"The resistance in the Middle East shows us democracy is not something delivered by the US military, but that is brought by the people," said Christina Taber, president and founder of the Madison IVAW chapter. She decried a government willing to "reach into the pockets of working people to finance the war," and urged listeners to consider the role of wartime spending in budget deficits.
Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell continued the connections: "The Iraq War was history, and this is history... and we're going to be on the right side of history!"
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz also took the stage, welcoming protesters back to Madison and offering encouragement. "That bill that was forced through last week isn't law yet," he proclaimed.
Cieslewicz commended the "Fabulous 14" Senate Democrats for stalling the bill, as well as Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi for her decision highlighting that Republicans pushed the bill through in violation of Wisconsin open meetings law. "We know the majority for that bill is fading, and that's why they passed it in the middle of the night," said the mayor. "I'd like to see them try to pass it again!"
Cieslewicz led the crowd in a call and response chant ("'We will win!' 'Together!'") before Iraq War veteran and Milwaukee-based folk singer and activist Jason Moon took the stage.
The Madison crowd sang along as Moon led them through John Lennon's "Working Class Hero."