MADISON, Wisconsin -- After the huge wave of protests throughout February and March, the focus of activists in Wisconsin moved to the impending recall elections this summer. The winter actions erupted as a result of an anti-union bill which threatened to remove essentially all collective bargaining rights for public employees as well as hamstring unions by requiring the almost impossible tasks of annual recertification and individual opt-in dues collecting. In response, besides assembling in numbers reaching nearly one-hundred thousand, Wisconsin citizens amassed signatures on petitions to facilitate the recall of numerous state senators who had voted for Governor Walker’s duplicitous legislation.
In the past two months, though a presence of protesters has remained - with their t-shirts, buttons, signs, banners, vuvzelas – around the vicinity of the capitol building, it appeared the united front of thousands had waned. Groups still came to meet for solidarity sing-a-longs and to attend governmental committee hearings on the many new regressive, pro-corporate, anti-human bills being forwarded by the Wisconsin legislature. But with the recall elections on the horizon and with the recent small victory of the Dane County circuit court dismissing the anti-collecting bargaining law (as it had been passed so hastily as to not adhere to common legislative requirements), it appeared that Wisconsinites might be done with the fight, resting on their own laurels and those of the Democrats they hoped to elect via the recall.
Of course, the corporate media, who operate under the same anti-human system that fosters plutocracy and redistribution of wealth from the many to the few, would like nothing better than to make it appear that all is “back to normal” in the cheese state. So, perhaps few people outside of Wisconsin and even outside of Madison realize that we were serious when we said that this was not a protest but a movement. There is much yet to be accomplished.
As of 7pm on Saturday, June 4th, a diverse group of citizens, representing unionists, non-union workers, students, teachers, immigrants, farmers, families and people with no formal affiliation (save for being a part of the empathetic class who truly seeks liberty and justice for all) laid down their tents and founded “Walkerville” around the perimeter of the Wisconsin capitol building. With a nod to the Hooverville tent cities of the Great Depression, these activists are demonstrating that we are not only opposed to the aforementioned anti-union bill, but that we are opposed to the entire regressive budget of this state, which wholly removes the rights and social safeties for the most vulnerable members of our society and shifts all of the state’s bounty to the wealthiest and most anti-social corporate oligarchs. The police state enacted by the Walker administration has severely hampered the lawful and peaceful assembly of citizens in our own statehouse, so Walkerville exists to re-establish the constant presence and occupation by the people of the state, whose voice is being muted within the capitol.
Most importantly, Walkerville demonstrates that we in Wisconsin are not going to let up. Just as we are being attacked on all fronts as citizens, we will be fighting back on all fronts. Though the Democrats in our state legislature have stepped up to the plate and helped to support the will of the people, it is unlikely that they would have done so had their feet not been held to the fire. If we had not gathered in the capitol clearly proclaiming our will, our presence, and our solidarity, it is not clear the state Democrats would have had the impetus to help us fight. Thus we know that simply electing new officials will never be enough to ensure justice for the people from the government.
States like New York and California serve as prime examples of how the Democratic agenda is just as corporate as the Republican. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the son of a man once considered one of the strongest liberals in NY State history, is promoting many of the same brutal and unnecessary cuts to education and poverty programs. The underserved of California are faring no better under Jerry Brown. If we citizens fail to realize that we must pressure ALL politicians of all politician affiliations, and we must be prepared to fight indefinitely against the bipartisan corporate takeover of our local, state, and federal our government, we are sure to lose.
Walkerville signifies the fortitude of the Wisconsin people, and the recognition that our struggles as citizens are not soon to end. Our actions may take new forms or may morph as they are reassessed for utility, but they are far from over.
For those of us in Wisconsin who cannot camp out day and night around the capitol but still want to volunteer with the movement, there are numerous opportunities to be present for more protests and actions against the state budget, which will be negatively affecting all of us. (See Defend Wisconsin for full details.) For those in other states who will likely see similar developments, please know that we are still fighting, as you will surely have to fight too. The more we acknowledge that this struggle against the ruling class will be ongoing, that it affects us all, and that we may not ever be able to “return to normal,” the more likely we may have a fighting chance for our future.