Welcome to Walkerville, complete with palm trees.
Like many who flocked to the Capitol grounds to demonstrate in recent months, Tolan Kilfoy-Flores had to take a break and recharge with some mac 'n' cheese pizza from Ian's. "That's good," exclaimed Tolan, a 2-year-old from Madison, flashing a glowing smile as he recalled last night's supper. He was also quite proud to have sat at one of the restaurant's adult-sized tables.
At around 7:30 Sunday morning, Tolan was happily playing on the sidewalk of the 100 block of North Carroll Street. He had just logged his first night camping -- an event given a boost of significance by the fact that the family's tent had been pitched on the Capitol Square as part of the Walkerville encampment demonstration.
Tolan's mother, Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, brought along 5-year-old daughter Anandi and 13-year-old niece Sirena to set up camp alongside some 70 other tents that made up the camp on Saturday night. Kilfoy-Flores said she brought the family to spend the night in Walkerville to help maintain the momentum of opposition to Gov. Walker's proposed budget. The public demonstration of political will, she explained, "is an extremely important lesson to be teaching to our children: to stand up for what you believe in and fight. Let your voice be heard and your face be seen."
By 8 a.m., the Kilfoy-Flores camp had just a handful of neighbors left from the night before. Most of the campers who had vacated the block were members of a group of around 20 non-union, non-public workers from Marquette County and surrounding areas who had packed up at around 6:30 a.m. Margarete Worthington, who was part of this group, said that they met and bonded during the demonstrations earlier in the year. The group has been meeting weekly to discuss recall election efforts and other developments related to Gov. Walker's proposed budget.
Worthington stressed, "The population of Walkerville is not just students and people from Madison. We had people drive for five hours to come down -- pregnant people."
People have been drawn to the Walkerville encampment in hopes of rekindling the sense of solidarity that flourished during the massive protests of February and March. "A lot of the good will that we saw during the initial protests is present again here," said Angie Aker of Kenosha.
Aker, along with other demonstrators, was particularly pleased with the peacekeeping efforts by the Madison Police Department, remarking that their presence was very visible and that they were quick to respond to disturbances. She reported that though most passersby had been gracious to campers, there had been a couple of disruptions during the night. A group of college-aged men kicked and shook an entire row of tents, and other campers had to dodge chunks of ice being thrown at them from a window overlooking West Mifflin Street.
However, the Walkerville encampment has also created a forum for constructive public debate between citizens of different political inclinations. Due to the much smaller size of the camp relative to the February and March demonstrations, those who favor the governor's proposals have been more likely to engage the demonstrators, said Thi Le, a UW-Madison student and one of the camp's organizers. "There's been a great marketplace of ideas being discussed," Le noted. She mentioned one person who has returned to the encampment every day to debate the merits of the governor's proposed budget with campers.
As the Walkerville encampment enters its second week, a week during which both the state Assembly and Senate are scheduled to take up the governor's budget bill, there should be no shortage of ideas to discuss.