Photo: Melissa Ryan
By Cynthia McCabe
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may have signed into law yesterday a devastating budget bill that silences workers’ voices, but the fight is far from over. Today, roughly 100,000 converged yet again on the state’s capitol to protest the overreach by the governor and state legislators. Elsewhere throughout the state, thousands converged at a number of locations including more than 5,000 in Green bay and 3,000 in Washburn.
The crowd grew silent as Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered prayers for the people of Japan, devestated by yesterday’s earthquake and tsunami. He delivered an eloquent sermon about the history of workers’ struggle, invoking the memories of Selma, Ala., the César Chávez-led grape boycott, the murders of the student civil rights workers in Mississippi and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
Throughout the day several celebrities addressed the rally, including actress Susan Sarandon and “Monk” star Tony Shalhoub. Shalhoub’s sister, Amy, is a speech pathology teacher in Green Bay, Wisc.
Wisconsin Education Association President Mary Bell appeared in front of the roughly 100,000 in attendance with Van Roekel at her side holding up a “Thank You Wisconsin 14,” referring to the 14 Democratic senators who left the state to avoid a quorum on Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-labor bill.
The Wisconsin 14 came home to a heroes’ welcome at the rally. It was an emotional return after having been isolated from the energy of the movement throughout their stay in Illinois. Their courage became a focal point for the movement and the rallying cry for Wisconsin workers.
Also attending the rally were Sen. Herb Kohl, Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind.
Earlier in the day, the site of farmers on tractors rolling in from the nation’s heartland in support of Wisconsin public employees buoyed many of the protesters. Bearing signs that read “Cultivate Democracy, Grow Solidarity,” they were “an incredible site to see,” said Madison, Wisc. music teacher Anthony Cao who has been out protesting for weeks. “Very powerful.” (Van Roekel participated in the “Tractorcade,” which was sponsored by the Family Farm Defenders and the Wisconsin Farmers Union.)
Since the legislative maneuvering that occurred earlier this week to ram the bill through, outrage has come from every corner of the country in reaction.
If you can’t be in Wisconsin today, follow all the action on the EducationVotes Twitter feed. If you’re tweeting yourself today, be sure to use the #wiunion hashtag and if you’re taking photos use #wiunionphotos.
Crowds gathering Saturday in downtown Madison:
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel with actress and activist Susan Sarandon:
Van Roekel with WEAC President Mary Bell and the Rev. Jesse Jackson:
Van Roekel with Wisconsin educators Beth Ott, Special Ed Teacher from Oregon, Wisc., Julie Jossart, Special Ed teacher from Oregon, Wisc., Kim Manny Brown, English Teacher from Oregon, Wisc.:
Crowds growing throughout the afternoon:
Democratic members of the state’s General Assembly leave the stage: