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Tens of Thousands Cheer Michael Moore in Madison: 'You Have Aroused a Sleeping Giant, Known as the Working People'

by John Nichols

Filmmaker Michael Moore marched with members of Madison Firefighters Local 311 to the Wisconsin Capitol Saturday and delivered a old-school progressive populist address is which he told a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands that “Wisconsin is not broke. America is not broke.”

“The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just not in your hands,” he told the Wisconsinites who rallied to challenge the claim that the state needs to strip public employees and their teachers of collective bargaining rights in order to balance budgets.

Moore ripped apart Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s claim, made repeatedly in recent weeks, that the state is broke.

“Never forget the three biggest lies of the past ten years,” Moore said. “Number one: America is broke. Number two: there are weapons of mass destruction. Number three: the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl Without Brett Farve.”

The reference to the Super Bowl–winning Green Bay Packers and their former quarterback drew one of the loudest rounds of applause accorded Moore, who said he came to speak up for union rights and cheer on the mass protests that have filled the streets of Madison and other Wisconsin cities in recent weeks. He appeared at a rally organized by the Wisconsin Wave movement, which has been backed by labor, farm, community and grassroots groups. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, former Mayor Paul Soglin, State Representative Kelda Helen Roys, Liberty Tree Foundation director and Wisconsin Wave organizer Ben Manski and others will also speak, while singers Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford and Michelle Shocked will also join the rally.

Moore, a long-time supporter of labor rights, is the director and producer of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story, four of the top nine highest-grossing documentaries of all time. His breakthrough film, Roger & Me, chronicled the deindustrialization of his his hometown of Flint, Michigan, along with the struggles of blue-collar workers.

Moore says of the protests against Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill—which would strip most public employee and teacher unions of their collective bargaining rights: “This movement—we’ll call it the ‘Madison Movement’ (after both the town where it was born and the president who wrote our Bill of Rights) is exploding across the Midwest. It will be unlike anything you’ve seen in recent US history. It is built on this one truth: corporations have taken over our country and we know this is our last chance to wrestle America away from the grubby hands of the greedy rich.”

“It’s been decades since I’ve seen anything like this,” said Moore, as he and members of the Firefighters union toured the Capitol, where protests have been held for three weeks. Noting the “the thousands of teenagers and the thousands of people in their 70s and 80s,” he described Saturday’s rally as the “most diverse demonstration I’ve been to.”

Moore’s message to the crowd was blunt: Telling the crowd “you have aroused a sleeping giant, known as the working people,” the filmmaker shouted: “Keep marching! Keep protesting!… On Wisconsin!”

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