By Liz Klainot, Peace Action WI Program Director
This past month has been very busy for members of Peace Action Wisconsin, as well as everyone in this great state. It has been exhilarating and inspiring and shown what can happen when everyone is unified. The protests began on Valentine’s Day, when Scott Walker’s attack on workers was unveiled. Despite the fact that he created Wisconsin’s budget deficit with his package of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, King Walker decided he would instead balance it on the backs of workers by not only increasing their costs for their benefits but also completely eliminating collective bargaining for public employees.
Gov. Walker thought he could push this through the legislature with no debate, but his tactics backfired and not only Wisconsinites but also the rest of the country soon scrutinized his new plan as well.
The next week was a whirlwind and filled with amazing signs of solidarity. Tens of thousands of people came to Madison to show their solidarity, even if they had no connections with public employees and unions. Even some Republicans joined in. In a wonderful show of solidarity, firefighters, who were excluded from this bill, showed up to the rally anyway to demonstrate their support for the rest of the public workers. They showed up to every protest, along with quite a few police officers, who were also excluded from the bill. Everyone was really there to support each other. The protesters were also all incredibly peaceful and non-confrontational.
Though peaceful, Wisconsinites have continued to stand up for their rights and refused to take this attack on workers sitting down. Inside the Capitol there was a mini-village for quite a while, complete with childcare, medical stations, educational trainings and more. Volunteers walked around with luggage carts filled with boxes of Ian pizza, provided for free by donations from all over the country and the world.
Our Democratic Senators have been very brave and left the state to prevent the bill from being shoved through without debate. The Democratic representatives have fought bravely for their constituents, sitting through 24+ hour debates and climbing out of their windows to hold office hours outside when their constituents were refused access into the capitol.
Local businesses have signs proclaiming their support for public workers, and everywhere you look you see signs, buttons and stickers all with messages of support for the public workers.
Peace Action Wisconsin members have played a definite role in the protests, as we see that this is an attack on everyone, not just public workers. We also have been quick to point out that the budget deficit could be solved if some of the money spent on war was instead spent on state aid. Our members have showed up at protests all the time, both local and in Madison, and have spread the word about protests and about buses going from Milwaukee to Madison.
Since Milwaukee is only an hour and a half from Madison, many of our members have been there every time they have a free day. Some have even spent the night camped out in the capitol. We have also brought signs to the protests showing the connection between war spending and the lack of money for states.
This Saturday we will hold a rally on the anniversary of the Iraq War and a big focus will be moving the money from war to human needs and state aid.
I am proud of the involvement of Peace Action Wisconsin and our members in the last month in these protests, and I am sure we will continue to be involved, despite the passing of the bill.
Many of our members have become very active in the recall efforts against Republican Senators, and we all eagerly await the day we can start collecting signatures to recall Walker. I am proud to be a member of Peace Action Wisconsin right now, and I hope Peace Action affiliates and the peace movement in other states will follow our lead.