Posts Tagged ‘Madison Wisconsin’

Insider Scoop on the Gov. Walker Recall

Today we have a jubilant guest blog post from my Uncle Brad, who has worked tirelessly to protect worker’s rights and recall Walker since the very beginning of the Madison protests last year. Given how people have looked towards Madison as inspiration for so many peaceful protests and mass awakenings, the results so far are quite encouraging for more systemic change. Here’s Brad Palmer’s inside scoop:

My Fellow “State Street Hippies”

1,000,000!
One Million!!
ONE MILLION!!!
OVER 1,000,000!!!!
That’s a ONE and SIX zeros!

My God, Wisconsin Freedom Fighters–teachers, farmers, janitors, nurses, firefighters, police, retirees, students, unemployed, homeless, accountants, professors, Occupy Madison, all walks of our state, collected over 1,000,000 signatures (we needed 540,208) to recall Walker. That’s more than any recall for an American governor in the history of the United States! Additionally, 845,000 signatures to recall the Lt. Governor, and another 87,000 to recall four Republikan state senators. We did this in 60 days. It wasn’t, as John Nichols noted, just Madison and Milwaukee. It was rural communities, small towns, little burgs….it was all of us. Organizing an undertaking like this is bigger than the Democratic Party, bigger than the unions. It was 30,000 grassroots residents of this state, braving winter weather, death threats, intimidation, attacks, profanities, anger and money. It was, in short, US! WE DID THIS! And Wisconsin’s accomplishment belongs to America as well.

When I got an email at 1:51 this afternoon from United Wisconsin — the largest driving organization of volunteers in this effort — that stated we — WISCONSIN — had collected over a million signatures and turned them into the GAB, my knees literally went weak. I headed for the locker room at work and sat on a bench, awash in emotion. In those brief moments, every memory I have of the rising up for freedom in Wisconsin flashed through my head in technicolor. I remember 30,000 of us marching in the winter. I saw the 150,000 marchers standing shoulder to shoulder with Kathie and me, my daughter and son in law, two of my granddaughters, in sleet and snow, frozen, seeing thousands of signs. We chanted. We stood and heard speakers, including John Nichols, editor of “Nation” magazine. He told us, “We can get a million signatures to recall Walker. But we have to wait 9 months.” We cheered, but we didn’t know what was ahead of us.

We heard Peter Yarrow sing for 100,000 of us. We heard Michael Moore speak on the steps of the capitol. I saw the rotunda, filled with thousands of us; an open mic, “Firefighters for Labor,” “Cops for Labor.” AFSCME, AF of L-CIO. I remember singing with the Solidarity Singers, who still sing songs of freedom and labor and protest in the captiol — “Singing for our lives.” 14 brave Democratic senators heading to Illinois to prevent FatzWalkerstan from ramming through illegal legislation, then welcoming them back to the capitol after the deed was done covertly. Dwindling at times to several dozen of us carrying signs, walking around the capitol in the spring. Walkerville — tents on the square to translate “Hooverville” of the 1930s into 2011. The drive for recall of our own senatorial stooge, Luther Olsen — gathering signatures, campaigning with Fred Clark, knocking on doors, meeting resistance and appreciation alternately. The crushing deflation I felt when we lost that recall election after all the hard work, but knowing the state recalled two of the three conspiritors of Walker’s. Saying goodbye to the foot soldiers we shared the recall campaign with, but strengthening our own grassroots organization.

We attended a LOT of demonstrations in Madison, and participated in our own Portage area demonstrations — something Portage had not seen in my 34 years here. The firing up of the recall office again, with a stronger, wiser, larger grassroots group, knowing WE were now the driving force, taking initiative, doing it ourselves, and knowing that all over this state, people like us were doing the same. Phone banks, recall signature stations, buttons, signs, getting hassled like never before, getting loved like never before. Many of our people gave up family time, weekends, nights, mornings, vacations, retirements; just to do what had to be done — recall Walker, restore our freedom. All of this rushed through my head and became a waking visual dream as I sat there. I was overcome with emotion — good emotion. This war will have many more battles. But the good guys just won one, and won it BIG.

Tonight we attended a “celebration” in Madison by United Wisconsin to thank all the volunteers who made this happen today. I estimate four thousand of us gathered in Monona Terrace Convention Center. “These are my people,” I thought, as I entered the sea of smiling Wisconsinites. We have a much bigger battle ahead. But tonight — just for tonight — was to take a breath and revel in what we’ve done. Mike Tate, leader of the DPW, thanked us and told us that what we did was not only historic, not only watched by the entire nation, but reaffirmed what the power of people can do. He admitted that during the planning stage, the DPW had decided the Satan of the Senate — Scott Fatzgerald — was unreachable. In all Fatzgerald’s arrogant haughtiness, it NEVER entered his empty puppet head that he could ever be recalled. His district is too red, he is the majority leader of the senate, and was safely entrenched. So there was no office in that district, no organization, no DPW.

But someone forgot to tell a diminutive photographer named Lori Compas. She decided she had to try. So with her own home as her recall office, she procured petitions, and went out on her own. She need 17,000 plus. She had 60 days to do this alone. Eventually, she convinced friends, family, anyone she could, to help her. She organized, she persevered, she NEVER stopped, not for a day. With two weeks left in the drive, the state noticed her efforts. Within 48 hours of the deadline, she needed 700 signatures to reach minimum, with no cushion of signatures. Within that 48 hours, volunteers from all over the state poured into little Jefferson, Wisconsin, where a recall office — an empty warehouse — was abuzz with directors, trainers, turf distributors, signature checkers, canvassers — it looked like Eisenhower’s office must have looked on the battlefields of World War II. Someone forgot to tell Lori it couldn’t be done. She got 20,600 signatures, virtually as a one-woman army. Mike Tate recognized her on stage tonight. She deserved every loud roaring cheer she got. She is a warrior. She is a Badger.

John Nichols was the key note speaker. He thanked us all. He quoted Fighting Bob LaFollette, who birthed the Progressive movement, “Democracy is not an event. It is a life.” He told us of Wisconsin’s place in history tonight. He reminded us of the demonstrations, the push back, the rising up of an oppressed citizenry. He reminded us that tonight we deserve a celebration; and tomorrow, we must begin the fight anew.

We are at war, make no mistake. The fight of our lives wages on. I hugged a lot of people tonight, most of them were strangers. One man said he’d hugged so many people he couldn’t remember them all. I told him, “We’re all one tonight.” Kathie’s only description of the event was brief and poignant. “This was awesome. We needed this.”

And as we stood at the end of the program — stood among strangers who will ever be our brothers and sisters, who don’t know “quit,” who don’t recognize, “You can’t win,” who don’t care about millions of dollars against them, who simply will not stop–the Solidarity Singers came on stage and sang THEIR signature song.

“Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever. Solidarity forever, the union makes us strong.”

I always considered that song a great tribute to labor — to the men and women who toiled over generations to till the land of Wisconsin, to build the schools and churches and houses; who worked the factories and made the goods and minded the stores. To have them and their memory corrupted and dishonored by the fiends of FatzWalkerstan is beyond evil. And it occurred to me as I stood witnessing 4.000 fists in the air in unison, singing, “Solidarity forever,” that a “union” is also a oneness of people, a connection that cannot be broken, a family of hard working people who refuse to give in to fear or threats or intimidation. Tonight that union is over one million strong. And tomorrow, we must begin preparations for the biggest battle. Can people power really defeat corporate billions? We believe it, because this is a life, not an event. Tonight belongs to us. Tomorrow is ours to earn.

The war continues. Here in my county, in my town of Portage, even now, the county board is plotting a vote tomorrow to further force sacrifices and punishment, further loss of income and benefits for county employees. Kathie is a candidate for that very board in April. Perhaps they might heed our phone calls and emails, flooding them the past two days — perhaps they may sit up and pay attention to the current state of the governor’s precarious tenure….perhaps not. But here in our county and neighboring counties, we have a grassroots organization that turned a red county blue last summer, a county that attained 200% of its goal in Walker recall signatures. Maybe — just maybe — they might be thinking of how angry Badgers can be when they’re attacked.

Fatzgerald and Grossman said, “They’ll go away in a couple of weeks.” That was in March of 2011. Kathie was asked in an interview by Channel 3 of Madison in March of 2011, “Do you think the protesters will still be here in a month?”

The push back is growing. SOPA has prompted internet blackouts in protest. Occupations continue to stand against foreclosures, continue to demonstrate, continue to occupy, the 99% continues to make a difference and to be heard. Indiana’s monarchical governor, Mitch Daniels, is being opposed by a new organization — of REPUBLICANS. They’re called, “lunchpail Republicans,” who say the current Republikan party is NOT the party of Lincoln. The lunchpailers are running ads AGAINST the Republikan administration in Indiana. Ohio gave Wisconsin a shot of adrenaline with their overwhelming reversal of anti-labor laws.

So tomorrow, we brush off our boots. We gather winter clothing and await the drive in a couple weeks to assist Wisconsin residents whose votes have been suppressed by Walker’s voter ID law. Badgers won’t be stopped. We grow, we strengthen, we unite, we organize. Freedom, democracy, rights….Fighting Bob reminds us these aren’t events, they are a life. I’ve met and connected with thousands of extraordinary people during this class war. I am honored by such bonds. I am humbled by their strength. This Illinois native is proud to be a Badger.

Forgive the emotional tone of this report. It was an emotional day for a million of us. How do we smell now, “Senator” Glen Grossman?

I encountered a five or six year old boy at the celebration tonight, perched on his father’s shoulders. I touched his arm, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Remember this.”

Solidarity Forever!
Union! Unity!
Fight back!

Solidarity!

Brad

Madison Rotunda Report 2/25/2011

I’m not sure how many people realize that the Capitol Building in Madison, WI features the second largest dome in the United States — second only to the one in Washington, DC. In a quite physical sense, the rallies in Madison’s Rotunda really do form a microcosm of the rest of the US right now. Today we have a follow-up report from guest blogger and passionate advocate, Brad Palmer. Many thanks, Brad!

Rotunda February 24, 2011

Hello, All — I was afraid after the gestapo-like passage in the Wisconsin Assembly last night that enthusiasm would wane at the capital. I was wrong. The crowd in the Rotunda tonight was louder. The marchers on the square were more numerous.

I’ll paraphrase my little speech….I don’t plan on speaking until the spirit moves me, so there are occasional poorly expressed thoughts I make, which I’ll point out in parentheses. Again, the moderators allowed anyone to speak who wanted, so that’s how I got my minute. And so I said:

“I’ll be brief. First, Wisconsin Fourteen–HOLD FAST! (loud cheers). Second, I heard the governor’s threats tonight (ref. his “press conference’ in which he said it was time for the fourteen Democrats to return.) I know the captial building is resuming hours, and will be closed from Sunday at 4 PM until Monday morning. We will respect that. But Governor, this building doesn’t belong to you. IT BELONGS TO US! (louder cheers….but I wish I’d said it belongs to the people of Wisconsin, never meant to imply it belonged only to the protesters.) Third, tomorrow my grandchildren will be marching. My children will be marching. My in-laws will be marching. My wife and I will be marching. Bring your children, bring you families. If the children don’t understand, explain it to them. Tomorrow at noon, I want to see 100,000!” Loud cheers.

The Madison Police department, which sent round 25 officers on Wednesday, had about 60 there tonight. They were supported by the Dane County Deputies union, around 20 deputies carrying signs supporting the protest. I noticed a few more minorities tonight. I noticed more union people–IWW, Teamsters, UAW, the Madison Firefighters union….the gathering was peaceful, and LOUD!

A sixteen year old girl spoke of her admiration for her teachers. A college student spoke of her special-needs sister (Down’s Syndrome AND autism) who is cared for via medicaide, will the student is studying health care to tend to her sister. A woman held up photographs of the Republicans who acted
inappropriately and likely illegally in last night’s session, refusing to let 28 representatives vote. “Remember these faces,” she said.

The highlight of the evening came at 7 PM. One of the moderators had a letter to the governor from the head of the Madison Police union. He read it, and I wish I’d recorded it, perhaps it’s on the net somewhere. He said in essence: “The current stance of the Assembly and the Governor to dispel the state workers union and eliminate collective bargaining is wrong. During the police co-occupation with the protesters, the protesters were polite, peaceful, and cleaned the capital after themselves. The police, he declared, have decided to sleep in the capital with the protesters TONIGHT!” Thunderous cheers.

Two new words were repeated by several thousand of us over and over…..”Solidarity.” “Undivided.” And the very loud chant of, “We will not be divided!”

The enthusiasm is higher tonight than Wednesday. Walker and his bullies exposed themselves last night with the fallicious passage of the bill. This, my friends, is not subsiding, but growing into steadfast resolve. We
were not “a bunch of out of towners” tonight. We were not “that State Street bunch” tonight. We were and will remain Wisconsin. We of Madison have become the peaceful battle ground and inspiriation to the
Americans who believe in fairness.

Representative Barca took a compromise to Walker on Wednesday. Walker has refused to respond.

I think Walker and his cronies are painting themselves into a corner, politically. Walker’s approval ratings have taken a hit this last two weeks. Many of the protesters stated they will remain united and carry this
fight for weeks…months…years.

It continues to inspire me. I thanked every cop and speaker I could, we shook hands with everyone we passed. Kathie and I went into businesses off the square with signs in their windows supporting working families and thanked them. We thanked people on the street carrying signs in support. We saw NO tea baggers or anti-union people tonight. Despite the apathy in Portage, we will cointinue to carry the message, bolstered by Madison. Because it’s the right thing to do.

Please learn more about the issue, find the names of the Wisconsin corporations delinquent in their fair share of taxes….the numbers are staggering.

THIS is what democracy looks like!

Brad

The Spirit of Madison

This is a guest blog post from my Aunt Gail’s half-brother, or my mom’s step-brother, depending on how you look at it. As synchronicity would have it, he and his family just happen to live near Madison. So many people have commented about my having just gotten settled in Madison right before Madtown took the national stage. What can I say? Always in the right place at the right time. 😉 Anyway, it’s a fantastic time to be on this planet, and an especially exciting time to live in Madison, WI. I’m supplying a few photos from my walk to and around the Capitol last Saturday, but this inspiring report comes to us courtesy of my sorta-uncle, the passionate and articulate, Brad Palmer. Thanks, Brad!

Creative Signs and Costumes from Madison's Walker Protest

Hi All — Kathie [Brad’s wife] has been attending the rallies in Madison’s capital rotunda every night since Saturday’s big one. She and I went there tonight. There are perhaps a hundred outside in the cold evening, but the capital itself is wall to wall people every night…I’d guess 3000-4000, since every tier and the main floor is full. Signs are everywhere, the people have taken over the building. They are picking up litter daily. It is peaceful and enthusiastic. NO ONE is willing to give up the fight.

Tonight there were union and NON union people from Los Angeles and Oklahoma, Chicago, northern and Eastern Wisconsin. They came, they said, in support of Wisconsin workers, because they know what happens here affects everyone. Whoever had something to say was allowed to speak. I was able to publicly thank my home state of Illinois for sheltering the Wisconsin 14, which drew rousing cheers. I also said we were all part of a 68,000 person march last Saturday, and I looked forward to being part of 100,000 person march this Saturday…again, rousing cheers.

Madison's Capitol Building on February 19, 2011

There were people there from all ages; 15, 40, 65, 71. Some of us drummed. Pizza joints are sending free pizza to the protesters, with money donated from 50 states. Saturday, capitals all over the country are trying to organize marches at noon on their capital buildings. America is watching Madison, becoming known as “Ground Zero.” The movement is not giving in.

"I Feel a Disturbance in the Force"

The largest cheers came when the Madison Police (about a dozen) came through with signs saying, “Cops for Labor.” One of the police officers spoke, stating Walker has not threatened the police union, but that the police would not fall into his trap of complacency. “We are with you,” he said, “and this will not stand!” Thunderous applause. There is strength of resolve in this ever-growing grassroots nation.

A temporary emcee (they rotate through a half dozen or so) led the rotunda in singing the national anthem. He encouraged everyone to remain peaceful, resolved, and consciencous about keeping the capital clean. Native Americans, Asians, African Americans, caucasians, all spoke. One 60-ish guy said he’s never been part of a protest like this, certainly not one where Bear fans and Packer fans embrace, most certainly not one in which the police are on the same side. A woman stated that women did not attain the right to vote by sitting down. The out of towners thanked Madison for leading this on-going struggle.

Indiana, Florida, Ohio….all taking the lead from us. It feels good to stand together and care about something so important….it feels good to not only be actively engaged in it, but to see young people actively engaged in the political process for the first time in their lives.

The country is indeed watching Madison. Some parts of the world are watching us. I want them to see what democracy looks like.

Brad

PS–Check out Scott Walker’s relationship with the Koch Brothers’ companies, and his plans for the privatization of Wisconsin utilities on the net. Check reliable sources and deduce what you may.

Peace and Love from Madison, Wisconsin!