This is what DE-MOC-RACY looks like

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.

Though there have been many, this is the tune of the “crowd favorite” chant over the past 3 weeks at the Wisconsin capitol. Protesters yell it, car horns honk it, and my mind constantly replays it throughout every part of the day (wait, was that in my mind or did a passing car just honk it?).

This morning, as I sit and drink Just Coffee’s aptly named, “Revolution Roast” and try to get that beepbeepbeep out of my head, I am amazed, once again, looking through the images of the turnout to the state’s capitol yesterday.

Since Clean Wisconsin’s office is located about 4 doors down from the center of the action, it’s been day after crowd-packed day of chants, honking horns, clever signs, free pizza, marching union leaders, marching students, marching firefighters, and marching teachers, all determined, angry, mobilized, and very, very persistent.

While I am usually hesitant to write a blog post about political matters – especially this one that’s about as divisive a topic as you can imagine, I still want to make sure my out of town readers realize just how amazing these protesters have been – that amidst day in and day out of bad news, the crowds come peaceful, organized and in big, big numbers.

On Wednesday, the sneaky Senate found a [potentially-illegal] way to vote on the Budget Repair Bill (the bill that includes the contested collective bargaining piece) without a quorum. Sam and I were at a film festival near the capitol at that time, and went down afterward to see what was going on. It was madness. Before I get to the crowds, you should really watch what it is exactly that happened that night in the Joint Finance Committee before it moved to the Senate. It’s pretty crazy. Watch here.

…Hearing them vote as Rep. Barca is yelling at them that the vote is illegal, while you can hear the crowds yelling right outside the door. Wow. Representative Gordon Hintz also did a good job of expressing the frustrations of many in this awesome speech the week prior:

Well, anyway. The crowds were quite riled up when Sam and I got down there. We made it inside and up to the third floor of the packed capitol and made a few loops around looking for a spot to stand and see the drama unfold in the rotunda below. The place was noisy as hell and filled with such an array of people. Sure, there were your smelly, stoned, dreadlocked protesters that you’d expect at any protest, but for the most part, the capitol was full of normal everyday pissed-off people who are just frustrated, and standing there is the only thing they can think to do at this point.

We ran into the exec director of Clean Wisconsin, many fellow students, interns, UW professors, WI Supreme Court hopeful David Prosser, Tia Nelson (the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day), one founder of Clean Wisconsin, the previous mayor of Madison (who had apparently snuck in through a bathroom window at the time the capitol was locked in order to protest the vote) and 8 policemen with mustaches (hey, we needed something to do).

What’s truly amazing though, is with as angry as everyone has a right to be, the protesters have made their occupation of the capitol somewhat of a science. This HuffPost blogger paints a really good picture in his post, “The Unbreakable Culture of the Occupied Capitol,” but that night Sam and I probably got there at 9:30 pm, and by the time we left at 11:30, in anticipation for protesters staying over night, fellow-protesters had come distributing free water, fruit, and pizza to the crowds, and holding “peaceful protest info-session” gatherings in the assembly. There were people delegated to go around and get signatures for recall petitions, and others delegated to go around with mega-phones on each floor announcing over and over: “This is a peaceful protest. The police are waiting for us to become violent so they can kick us out; do not let this happen. Later tonight the police might tell you to leave the capitol. You do not need to leave, but do not resist arrest, do not become limp…” etc.

My pictures don’t do justice, but there are many that do.

Alright, I’m disappointed by my inability to describe the powerful scene that night (and many previous to that night), but it’s time to wrap this up. But I do think that despite all the bad news, the scene at the capitol has been truly amazing, and I feel really lucky to have gotten to see so much of the action. Although I might go crazy if I hear that protest again, this really is what democracy looks like.

Oh also, one major lesson of all this:

VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE. VOTE.

Wisconsin elections are April 5th. And according to a friend, “If you were down there protesting this bill and you don’t go vote, you’re the worst kind of person.”

Here is any info you need to know (for Wisconsin).

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.

-Jenny

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