10 March 2011

Tyranny in America; Dateline: Wisconsin

(photo courtesy: AP)
Since these peaceful protests against the “budget repair” bill in Wisconsin began on February 14 of this year, and as crowds amplified day after day, everyone here recognized one truth about how our story would be told to the nation and the world: “Fox News will lie about this.” - A slogan later to be found on many protest signs. But the truth is NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, NPR, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Time would also lie about this. Their lies began when they allowed our dictatorial governor to speak complete fallacies without questioning, investigating, or critically examining any of his claims, such as:

This bill is about a budget crisis.

Now the lies have been exposed for all they are worth.

Here is what happened the evening of March 9, 2011 in Wisconsin from someone who was there.

At 5:15pm I readied to tackle all of the work I had piled up before me, as my civic responsibilities of late have undermined my academic ones. I quickly checked my email, only to find a flurry of messages labeled “Urgent!” (I probably would have received word via text/ cell if I had one.) They implored me to rush to the capitol building in Madison. The republicans in the state senate had found a way to extract the collective bargaining provision out of the “budget repair” bill and vote on it as a separate entity, since they can vote on non-fiscal matters without a quorum of senators, and the 14 democrat senators needed to produce a quorum were still in Illinois. The republicans had rather surreptitiously convened a hearing (as has been par for the course since the entire bill was announced) and were set to vote on it at any moment.

But the bill was about a budget crisis, right?

I immediately fled to the capitol, as did thousands and thousands of other concerned taxpaying citizens. Upon arrival, we found ourselves waiting outside in a single-file line as we attempted to enter the building, which was supposed to be completely open to the public. Entrance was permitted through only one door. Once we passed through, we were met by numerous police officials who searched our bags and sent us through metal detectors. In addition, a large sign alerted us to the dozens and dozens of items that were no longer permitted in the building. After over three weeks of completely peaceful, non-violent protesting with nary an arrest – despite what erroneous rumors you may have heard – we could no longer simply enter our statehouse. We faced draconian rules and regulations and we were herded like mere cattle.

Nevertheless, many of us made it in, and despite their having to search us and treat us as criminals, the police kindly assisted us in finding the senate chambers where the vote on the bill was being held. Hundreds and hundreds of loud and angry, yet still extremely peaceful citizens continued their familiar chants from the past twenty-three days:
“Whose house? Our house!”
“Recall Walker!”
“Tell me what democracy looks like.” “This is what democracy looks like.”
And finally, to those cowardly, duplicitous republican senators: “Shame. Shame. Shame.”

By shortly after 6pm, the bill which effectively strips all employee unions in WI – minus the police and firefighters – of collective bargaining rights was passed by the state senate. The senators fled quickly. The citizens remained.

But this bill was about a budget crisis, right?

Initially, there were hundreds if not a couple of thousand of citizens in the capitol building, as the outside doors were being strictly monitored. People of all ages and all walks of life – from infants to seniors, from preppy, to hippy, to working-class, to hipster, to “regular” folk – remained in the capitol feeling resentment and disappointment about their government, but feeling solidarity and kinship with their fellow citizens. People assembled back in the center rotunda, as we had all done so many weeks back, and began collectively chanting and letting out the frustration of the moment. Then cheers erupted as scores of more people flooded into the rotunda. The police had opened all of the doors to the building, against the orders of the governor, apparently. Within minutes, from my vantage point on the second floor, I could smell the scent of pizza wafting up through the rotunda. Soon thereafter, boxes of fruit and snacks came in, bottles of water were passed around, and sandwich stations were created. At some point during this flurry of activity, a first aid headquarters was organized, and volunteers began to don those familiar fluorescent Marshall vests to help maintain the peace. In addition, blankets, sleeping bags, and bedding started to arrive. The energy and conviviality in the air was electric. All of the items banned under the tyrannical Walker regime were allowed back into the building. It was Day 1 all over again. Thousands upon thousands of people were occupying the capitol building in response to an imminent loss of their rights as workers and citizens. (The revamped bill will have to pass the assembly on Friday, which it will easily do.)

But this bill was about a budget crisis, right?

To the world, it might seem the people have lost. To us, we have only just begun.

The right-wing shock doctrine that promoted American imperialism around the world has come home. It is in our state of Wisconsin, and it is in yours too. We are not defeated here; we are reinvigorated. Our small battle is now a national war against these emerging tyrannical states and against the corporate plutocracy that has stolen our money, our lives and our futures. This is our story today, but it will be yours tomorrow. It is a national call to arms for the working people – for all the citizenry.

This bill is not about a budget crisis. It was never about a budget crisis.

This cannot stand.

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