Protesters gather at Fire Station 1 in Madison, Wis. at the start of the June 6 rally around the Capitol Square and Walkerville.
Hundreds of people braved temperatures in the low 90s for a march on Monday, June 6, that started at Madison Fire Station 1 and circled the Capitol and adjoining "Walkerville" encampment several times, with a few stops along the way.
One of those stops was the entrance to M&I Bank on West Main Street, which was stormed by a large subsection of participants in the march.
Shouts of "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" started long before the parade of protesters reached the bank, which is the largest in Wisconsin. According to an article in The Nation, M&I Bank received $1.7 billion in TARP bailout money from the federal government. The bank's doors remained open as protesters swarmed its entrance and spilled into the lobby. Several protesters were physically removed from the building as guards attempted to close its doors. By 12:30 p.m., the protest had been moved from the bank back to the street, and a new chant emerged: "Next time around, we will shut you down!"
The march, with a stated purpose to "join firefighters, nurses, community, farmers and tractors to say no to Walker's budget and yes to a people's agenda," garnered support from a wide variety of groups and individuals.
"This isn't just about unions or collective bargaining; this is about the middle class," said Kevin Sherry, union vice president of Firefighters Local 311, adding that Walker's budget and the force behind it is "trying to strip the only voice left of the working people."
Sherry said the firefighters were marching to try to bring more attention to the issue and make the rest of the state more aware of what's happening in Madison, to "get more momentum going and let people know there's still a movement."
The union's biggest objection, Sherry said, was the elimination of collective bargaining rights despite Gov. Scott Walker's April 14 admission to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the provision won't save the state any money.
Brian Austin, a member of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, said police officers were out marching "in support of all public service workers." He also felt that many provisions in Walker's "horrifying budget" are "completely unnecessary."
"This will completely dismantle all the institutions we hold dear in this state," Austin said of the budget, referring to education, health care, public safety and several other public services.
Austin made it clear that the Madison Professional Police Officers Association is not giving up. Mahlon Mitchell, president of Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, said the same is true of the state's firefighters.
"Whether we're exempt or not exempt, we're not going to stand for it," Mitchell said of the stripping of collective bargaining rights.
Mitchell said the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin are "out here to make sure we keep the pressure on" and will keep "taking it to the streets."
A man who goes by "Tank" joined the march with a double-sided Beverly Hillbillies-themed poster. One side read, "If brains was lard, Scott Walker couldn't grease a skillet. - Jed Clampett." Tank's vest and hat were adorned with several buttons, one of which said, "I hated Scott Walker before it was cool."
Tank decided to use humor and a television show many people might recognize to convey a more serious point.
"Now that unions are being busted, I'm going to be out of work," Tank said, explaining that it had been difficult for him to find work in the first place. He hopes rallies like this one will get more people involved.
The variety of signs and chants at the rally made it clear that people of all kinds had come out to show solidarity and protest Walker's budget. The parade was led by firefighters playing bagpipes, with several tractors bearing the sign, "Pull together: support working families" following at the end. Chants included "Walker, we won't back down! This is a union town!" as well as "Russ for Governor" at the sight of Russ Feingold, who joined the march. Signs represented an array of issues, including education, women's rights, public safety and labor.
Not everyone who marched thought it was an effective use of time or energy, though.
"I think the protesting is largely ineffective," said Jake Jones, who has family ties to Wisconsin. "I think general wildcat strikes would be a step in the right direction and would be more empowering for people than waving signs."
Jones said politicians aren't likely to be swayed by protests when they listen most to the people who pay them. He added that events like this rally are positive because they allow people of different backgrounds and ideals to come together and talk to each other.
Michael Iltis, a professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks Wisconsin's current budget problems began long before Walker took office.
"It's hard to survive these days," Iltis said of the education field. However, Iltis said he thinks the focus on Walker's budget is a distraction from other issues such as the Iraq War, energy and foreign policy.
Comparisons of Madison to Cairo, Egypt, were on Ivan Barry's mind as he watched a protester being arrested inside the Capitol following the rally.
Barry, a mental health advocacy worker from the United Kingdom, said he sees a lot of similarities between the two cities and their corresponding movements. Barry spent time in Egypt on business during the uprising.
"It became clear to me that the inequalities between the richest and the poorest were really marked," Barry said, adding that Egypt was a "cauldron of unresolved, dynamic political and social tension."
The similarities didn't end at the Madison-Cairo connection for Barry, who said social programs are also being cut in the U.K. He expects to see resistance there, as well.
The arrest Barry witnessed was one of several that drew some attention later in the afternoon, following the rally.
Sam Mayfield, a documentary filmmaker from Burlington, Vermont, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
"I'm documenting the gentle uprising that's happening in Madison," Mayfield said. "I've been coming back and forth [from Burlington] since March, filming this. I'm making a documentary film."
Mayfield said she was inside the Capitol filming people who were chanting, singing and talking, when an officer "arbitrarily" started to tell people within the building to leave. She said after telling the officer she was a member of the press, she was waved through "despite the fact that moments before he had actually pushed my body and told me to leave."
A few minutes later, she saw a group of people pointing to a young woman who was being pulled away in handcuffs. That woman was Alex Noguera-Garces, a student from Vermont who was assisting Mayfield with her filming. Mayfield said the crowd was chanting, "Let her go!" while Noguera-Garces was taken to an elevator.
"Her camera was sort of dangling in her hand ... and it was clear that her camera was not stable in her hand," Mayfield said. "I grabbed the camera -- the cop grabbed my arm and said, 'Now you're getting arrested, too.'"
Mayfield said the officer then tried to take both her camera and Noguera-Garces', but she "obviously wasn't going to just give him the camera." She said she was originally told she was "obstructing an arrest," but she was ultimately cited for disorderly conduct.
An officer who escorted Noguera-Garces from the Capitol Police office said five arrests had been made that afternoon.
Despite the ordeal, Mayfield said she hopes "that there's more news about all of the hundreds of people that showed up to parade around the Capitol, rather than the arrests."