Major Protests Planned in Madison This Week
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, the younger brother of about-to-be-recalled state Senator Scott Fitzgerald, has announced that he wants to run for the U.S Senate to replace the retiring Herb Kohl. In order to do that, he will need lots and lots of money.
In order to get lots and lots of money, Jeff Fitzgerald needs to do something to prove himself to people like the Koch brothers and other, less famous but just as ruthless corporate bosses. It has to be a big, mean, and bloody act. Fitzgerald, like many similar gang initiates, must show that he is willing to commit violence without flinching.
His victim: Earth. Specifically, the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin, which contains the headwaters for the Bad River, including Copper Falls State Park and Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay. The area has been targeted for an open pit iron ore mine.
Fitzgerald's weapons of choice: Assembly Bill 463 (AB-463), which would weaken wetlands protections in Wisconsin making it easier for mining companies to get permits; and Assembly Bill 426 (AB-426), a bill that would carve out special rules for strip mining of iron ore, essentially shutting the public out of the permit review process and turning the state's Department of Natural Resources into a rubber stamp for Gogebic Taconite, the mining company that owns the mineral rights in that area.
His accomplices: It's hard to say, exactly. Naturally, Scott Walker is cheering on Fitz the Younger, but guess who wrote the actual bill, AB-426? Keep guessing, because we don't know. It was introduced into the Assembly by the Committee on Jobs, Economy, and Small Business with no sponsors. None. It is so shamefully corrupt and toxic that nobody is willing to put their name on it, and there is good evidence that the mining company itself drafted the bill:
The lawmakers agreed they relied on representatives of Hurley-based Gogebic Taconite, which earlier this year demanded changes in mining legislation if they are to move forward with plans for a $1.5 billion open pit mine and a processing plant in a forested area of Iron and Ashland counties.
The state legislature originally decided it would hold one public hearing on the bill. They held it in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb that is 300 miles from the proposed mine. That didn't stop citizens from the north woods from showing up, but it was a long day for them. 5 hours of driving, hours of waiting before being able to testify, then 5 more hours on the road home.
Still, the anger at the deliberate scheduling of the hearing so far away was so intense that one of the committees caved in and decided to hold a second hearing in Hurley, much closer to the site of the proposed open pit mine. From all indications, the public testimony was heavily against the mining bill, but it was all just for show. The bill will move forward.
Which brings us to this week, a busy week in the Wisconsin Capitol building. Not only will the legislature be in session to consider the "Poison the North Woods" bills, Governor Scott Walker is also scheduled to deliver his annual "State of the State" address on Wednesday evening, inside the Assembly chambers.
Here's the thing about young Fitzy's gang initiation rite: The people who rely directly on the clean water and natural resources of the Penokee Range to sustain themselves, like the Bad River Ojibwe, are not going to watch their land get raped and their waters poisoned without putting up a fight, and neither are the other citizens throughout Wisconsin.
So far, here are the actions scheduled to protest the mine:
PEOPLE'S STATE OF THE STATE HEARING: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10am until 5pm 2nd Floor - North Hearing Room. Citizens will be given the opportunity to testify and give their own opinions about the state of our state, including the mining bill.
BURY THE MINING BILL PROTEST RALLY: Wednesday, January 25th, 5:00p, - 7:00pm at Lady Forward, top of State Street / Capitol Square, Madison, WI -- Protest AB-426 aka "The Mining Bill," and Wetlands Deregulation Bill AB-463. These Bills will deregulate environmental protections and give immunity to mining operations.
THE PEOPLES TRIBUNAL OF AB-426 (testimonials, complaints, alternative job growth suggestions) Thursday January 26th, North Hearing Room, 2nd Floor, 10am - 6pm. The Peoples Tribunal will be an open Citizens Mining Hearing taking citizen petitions and testimony on AB-426 and providing legislative organizing skills, training and actions suggestions to citizens and providing an opportunity for those to speak on the Mining Bill as now proposed.
OPEN CAMERA NIGHT IN THE WISCONSIN ASSEMBLY GALLERY: Thursday, January 26th, while the Assembly is in open session. The Assembly is expected to debate and vote on AB-426. Participants are urged to occupy the Assembly's public gallery as allowed by law and, if willing to risk arrest, to silently record the proceedings on video. In the past, citizens recording Assembly proceedings have been arrested and cited. The citations, usually for disorderly conduct or similar charges, have been dismissed by the courts. Citations for resisting arrest have not always been dismissed. Participants are urged to cooperate with law enforcement if being arrested.
There will be, of course, a constant presence all week from the rival gang that opposes the FitzWalkerstan gang. You know them - those bad-ass teachers, librarians, retirees, bus drivers, guitar players, moms and college students that have made Walker's life hell for the past 12 months. The Solidarity Sing Along will be held as scheduled every weekday from noon to 1 pm.
Representatives from Indian tribes whose land and water would be threatened by the proposed mine are also planning to come to Madison to protest the bills, and IndianCountryTV is planning to live-stream many of the events.
If you're in or near Madison this week, you know what to do. Help us make sure Jeff Fitzgerald doesn't pass his initiation.