Screen shot of the Ustream feed from the Madison capitol on Sunday at 5:20 PM CT
At 4 pm on Sunday, February 27, the state attempted to close the Madison capitol building, which thousands of public workers and supporters of workers' rights have been occupying to prevent a so-called budget repair bill that would take away collective bargaining rights for unions from being passed. In Egypt's Tahrir Square, now a public space in Cairo that has become a symbol of people power, the military was trying to remove protesters occupying the square.
The military in Egypt moved in and were gathering around camps in the square that have been kept to continue the revolution. Messages were being sent out on Twitter indicating military intended to use violence to forcefully remove the protesters. In Madison, police moved in and had lead organizers give protesters an opportunity to evacuate the premise. Someone stood up and spoke to demonstrators suggesting they clench their fists so that if handcuffs were put on circulation would not be cut off and if they had contact lens they should remove them in case anything was sprayed.
Hundreds if not over a thousand demonstrators risked arrest in a standoff that lasted for a couple hours. But, the US media could not be bothered to show a live feed of what was going on in the capitol. The image of people power, this aspect of democracy, would not be allowed to obstruct the media's planned coverage of the Oscars. They tuned in to the glitz and glamour on parade in Los Angeles showing off how people were presenting their individual selves to the world on this night.
But, the Oscars would not go on without reference to Gov. Walker's union-busting agenda. Wally Pfister, who won the Best Cinematography Award for "Inception." He thanked his "fantastic union crew" on stage and backstage told the press, "I think what's going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now."
Another winner, Gary Rizzo, who won the award for Best Sound Mixing on "Inception," thanked "the hard working boom operators and utility sound people that worked on the production crew." He added, "Union, of course." Then, of course, there was Charles Ferguson, director of the documentary "Inside Job." His chronicle of showing how the 2008 economic collapse was essentially a criminal act won the award for Best Documentary. When he was on stage he said, "Not a single financial executive has gone to jail and that's wrong."
Backstage Ferguson told the press no one responsible for the collapse has been prosecuted because, "The financial industry has become so powerful that it is able to inhibit the normal process of justice and law enforcement."
Typically, the police would have evacuated the protesters after ninety minutes. That did not happen Sunday night. Unlike most protests held, members of the police have been demonstrating or expressing support for those in the capitol. They have recognized this action is an extension of democracy and have rejected Gov. Walker's and other political leaders and pundits' suggestion that democracy begins and ends on Election Day.
Those occupying the capitol for the past two weeks are giving Americans a lesson on democracy. Their action has created an opening for conversation. It has been a result of outrage at a smug and confident governor's move to strip rights from people, sell of state assets and properties to companies that have filled his campaign coffer and further concentrate power in the hands of the executive in the state of Wisconsin. The occupation has been a response to their rage and that response has now become a part of the movement of history.
The action of Wisconsinites has ignited a nationwide uprising in defense of workers' rights. Wisconsinites have shown the power of people, that one does not have to sit back, think they are powerless and let governors advance their assault on the rights of people because they think governors have corporate and special interests to help them deploy ad campaigns, promote their agenda in the media and are able to outspend the people.
In the context of worldwide uprisings, the Wisconsin struggle fits in because what people are responding to is a state move to take away rights. There may not be any possibility that tear gas, rubber bullets, or live rounds go off or that demonstrators are arrested, detained, and tortured, but just because their actions will not provoke the state to react violently does not mean talk of how this fits in with other battles between governments and their people is nonsensical. Wisconsinites are working to prevent seeds of tyranny from being planted.
Gov. Walker is no President Hosni Mubarak, but he is someone who is using tactics power uses when they are growing increasingly desperate. His regime in Wisconsin has been fooling with Wi-Fi access to prevent the truth of what is going on from getting out, they blocked access to a pro-union website days ago, and he has gone on television to tell his story and benefited from the fact that conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce have moved pundits to tell stories like this as if Gov. Walker is "David" and the Big Unions are "Goliath."
In the capitol on Sunday, for the most part, media coverage of the temporary standoff was limited to an UStream feed that could be accessed on the Internet. Two guys broadcasting from inside the capitol building announced they would be there until they had their feed killed or were forced to leave were Wisconsinites' Al Jazeera English. They were broadcasting the truth as Governor Walker benefited from a kind of repression in the United States that is not violent repression but rather information repression. (And, at one point, WiFi was cutoff and, for a moment, only Fox News was broadcasting live.)
Peter Hart detailed in a blog for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) how "workers' voices" have been shut out of coverage of the struggle. He cited Amanda Terkel who reported the following for Huffington Post on February 24:
A union official told the Huffington Post that when none of the Sunday shows' producers reached out to them to book a labor representative this week, several unions started to pitch the shows with affected workers and local and national leaders who they felt could discuss the protests. The official said the response from the shows was essentially "thanks, but no thanks.
The media are taking cues from power and choosing to cover the story in a way that favors the anti-worker, pro-privatization and friend of David Koch Gov. Walker's campaign to exploit the ailing economy in his state and use it to deliver an ideological victory to those who supported his election and likely have pledged to support his re-election.
Unfortunately for corporate oligarchs crossing their fingers, support for the workers is swelling. Walker began to lose, really, when police, firefighters and Green Bay Packers players began to side with the workers. He began to lose when a "prank" phone call from a journalist with the Buffalo Beast appeared on the Internet giving Americans a glimpse at Walker's true motivations for taking rights away from workers.
Walker began to lose when the world started buying pizzas for those occupying the capitol, when the struggle began to benefit from the fact that people all over the world are standing up and fighting back
Around one hundred and twenty-five thousand were out demonstrating in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, February 26. This was the largest protest in Madison since Vietnam. Across the country, solidarity rallies were held. Meanwhile, a campaign to call attention to how corporations get away with not paying their taxes called US Uncut was launched.
Ever since President Barack Obama was elected, ever since the Tea Party came on the scene, the narrative and terms for hope and change had been tightly controlled. Democrats told liberals and others what it could and could not do. President Obama made clear that he was going to compromise again and again and helped legitimate the Tea Party, which has been acting as shock troops for free market ideologues. But, no longer is that the case: as musician Tom Morello, who has been singing as The Nightwatchman for protesters in Wisconsin, told Laura Flanders on GRITtv, "The Obama Administration was elected and Democrats showed no spine whatsoever...[But now] Madison has set the example for the rest of the country. It's like there's finally people on our side standing up."
Gov. Walker and all the corporate goons that support his effort grossly miscalculated and have awakened a sleeping beast. Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired and have had enough and the spirit of resistance in America is coming alive. It will spread and should spread. There should be more occupations in more state capitols with people refusing to leave until their governments halt their campaigns to further dismantle what pieces of social democracy are left in America and redistribute the wealth from the poor, working and middle class to the elites, who thrive when the people are docile and servile to their power.
In the March 7/14, 2011 issue of The Nation, Stephane Hessel's Indigenez-vous! that Charles Glass writes "reflected and anticipated the spirit of student demonstrations in France and Britain, as it did the wave of revolt now challenging dictatorships in the Middle East." If that can be said, it can now be said that Hessel's small book, with a title that translates to "Cry Out," foresaw that wave of workers' uprisings that are beginning to spring up in the United States.
The entire book is worth reading (and can be read in English translation by picking up this recent issue). Points raised are worth discussing, but for now, what this author will note is Hessel's ending, where he writes: "TO CREATE IS TO RESIST, TO RESIST IS CREATE."
The resistance in Wisconsin has created an opening. People are having discussions out in the open that weeks ago would not have taken place. The truth about state governments' attitude toward its own people especially the governments' employees is now very evident to Americans. Many are taking part in the uprising that has been swelling or are growing sympathetic to the story. And, they don't need the media to tune in. Like the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, they can make corporate media irrelevant and get on social media and the Internet to follow the story.
For too long, governors have been transferring state wealth to private contracts and to allies that use transferred wealth to accelerate their exploitation of citizens. There are fears in states that labor is paralyzing state governments, making business and regular government operations impossible. Resistance to governors' agendas should be paralyzing states. They should be creating scenarios where power shifts from state government to the people. For too long, governors have been transferring state wealth to private contracts and to allies that use transferred wealth to accelerate their exploitation of citizens.
Gov. Scott Walker has ushered in a period when workers rise up, resist nonviolently and peacefully the march toward privatization, reverse a trend that goes back as far as the 1970s and decide they are in for the long haul to turn this moment into a point in history where workers' rights are not defended but advanced and economic justice and social democracy is fought for vigorously.