Vision: Across the Country, People Are Rising Up to Fight for Change
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“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.” -The late people’s historian Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010)
Over the years, Milwaukee Labor Press editor Dominique Paul North has covered a “heck of a lot of protests” in Wisconsin. Last summer, a peace rally in Wisconsin’s inner city drew about 100 people calling for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan. “There was no media coverage,” he says. “I was the only reporter there.”
The next day, 40 people attended a tea party event in Wisconsin and every local media outlet was there to cover it. “This is what we’ve been seeing over the past year. If there’s a peace rally or a worker’s rights rally, it’s ho hum. You might find a reporter or two. The tea party would gather five people on the corner and there would be coverage.”
So while it was disappointing, it came as no surprise when most Wisconsin and national media outlets ignored the state’s first anti-inaugural rally on January 3.
Over 700 people gathered outside the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest the inauguration of newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker.
The Milwaukee Courier did report that "such a mobilization of popular discontent at the inauguration of a new governor is unprecedented in recent Wisconsin political history," but Paul North says it deserved far more attention. “This is very unusual for an inaugural. I went to look at history books and couldn’t find any anti-inaugural events. There wasn't a single story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the biggest paper in Wisconsin. I didn't see any local TV news coverage in Milwaukee, but there was a lot of coverage of his inaugural.”
Participants waved signs saying "Then They Came for the Trade Unions," "Christmas Sucked, Thanks Scott," and "We Need Good Jobs NOW." Demonstrators said they want jobs that are family-sustaining and pay a living wage, not minimum wage. Governor Walker has promised to create 250,000 jobs in the next four years.
“Today isn’t about Scott Walker, it’s about the people standing up to say we need good jobs now,” said Roderick Caesar, an unemployed Milwaukee worker, in an interview with the paper. “I’m college educated and I want a job so that I can support my family.”
Organizers from churches and groups including the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and Voces de la Frontera, also expressed opposition to the Governor’s decision to kill the proposed 110-mph Madison-Milwaukee high-speed rail line. They say the derailment of the federally funded train line will cost the state 13,000 jobs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently withdrew an $810 million grant from Wisconsin and divided it among other states, including California and Florida. According to the Journal Sentinel, Walker called the grant withdrawal a "victory" because he believes the rail line is a symbol of excessive governments spending. “The Madison-to-Milwaukee train line is dead,” he said in a statement.
"I think it's an absolute travesty that the man who is about to take the governorship of the state of Wisconsin would find victory in giving away $810 million dollars," said Sheila Cochran, COO of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. "Aside from becoming the laughingstock of the rest of the nation, a lot of us just can't understand why you’d give away a grant."
"It was good news to see such a diverse mix of people brave chilly weather on a week day to stand up and push back," writes Gary Storck, co-founder of Madison NORML. "The one silver lining to Walker's policies is they are so extreme they have united a diverse array of citizens willing to brave even a January day to stand up for the real Wisconsin we all know and love."