Police Join 100,000-Strong Protest in Wisconsin; Thousands Across America Rally in Support of Union Workers
Despite typically wintery Wisconsin conditions, more than 100,000 people rallied in Madison’s Capitol Square for Saturday’s “Rally for Worker’s Rights,” a protest against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and his war on public employee unions and their collective bargaining rights. Union members, working families, faith leaders, activist groups and concerned citizens of all stripes turned out in the snow to show their solidarity. The crowd was the largest seen so far during nearly two weeks of protests in and around the Wisconsin Statehouse. It was reportedly the largest rally in the history of Wisconsin.
Hundreds of police, many ordered to disperse the demonstrators, instead joined them inside the protester-occupied Statehouse. “We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today,” an officer announced to the crowd, “but we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!” Speaking to Governor Walker, a representative of the Wisconsin Police Union declared to thunderous applause: “This is not your house. This is our house!” It was a triumphant moment captured on video by blogger Ryan Harvey of Even If Your Voice Shakes:
Tens of thousands of Americans also rallied in all 50 states in solidarity with Wisconsin’s unions. In New York City protesters waved signs reading “CUT BONUSES, NOT TEACHERS”, “UNIONS MAKE US STRONG”, and “WALL STREET IS DESTROYING AMERICA.” They wore stickers that said: “WE ARE ALL WISCONSIN”. “If we don’t have collective bargaining rights I don’t know what’s left for workers in America,”44-year-old Anne O’Byrne told Reuters. “It seems important to me to resist any attempt to take away those union rights that have in fact brought us so much over the years.”
Around 1,000 protesters rallied in Chicago. A similar number turned out in Columbus, Ohio. There were rallies in several California cities and more than 1,000 people showed up for a solidarity demonstration in Denver. Hundreds rallied in Austin, Texas as well. Some said they were inspired by the recent revolutions in the Middle East.
Back in Wisconsin, the Statehouse remains occupied by peaceful demonstrators. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that they will not be removed from the building:
“‘The people who are in the building will be allowed to stay,’ Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said Sunday night. ‘There will be no arrests unless people violate the law.’ Tubbs…announced the decision to let the protesters stay after he saw how they moved aside while work crews went about cleaning the Capitol, including mopping and polishing floors. ‘People are very cooperative,’ the police chief said. ‘I appreciate that.'”
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