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24/7 Solidarity Vigil, Champaign IL, Day Six Update–February 27, 2011

27 Feb

Via Kerry Pimblott of GEO #6300

Day six of the GEO 24/7 Solidarity Vigil witnessed two amazing victories for workers in Wisconsin and across the country!

Today several GEO members traveled to Madison to participate in an occupation intended to keep the Capitol open. Police had indicated that at 4pm they would be closing the building and forcibly removing protesters. As 4pm drew close many of us watched on an online live stream as protesters were asked to leave the building. While many left voluntarily, several hundred remained on the first floor determined to continue the occupation and risking arrest.

As the tension increased, the remaining occupiers linked arms and began to sing “Solidarity Forever” and “We Shall Overcome” to keep their spirits up. And then… as the occupation looked like it was entering its final moments… police refused to remove protesters and the Police Chief announced that no arrests would be made! The occupation was successful and protesters were able to secure access to the building for a thirteenth consecutive night!

If that wasn’t enough… reports quickly emerged that Republican Sen. Dale Schultz had switched sides and would now be voting against the bill! This announcement was received with deafening cheers from protesters within the Capitol complex. Now only two more Republicans are required to ensure that the bill will not pass!

Amy Livingston, staff organizer for GEO and an occupier of the Capitol, stated in a text message: “Our Solidarity moves mountains. We kept the Capitol open for the people when the Governor tried to close it. We forced one Republican to do the right thing and we’re on our way to forcing 2 more. We’ll stand with our brothers and sisters in WI until we win. Keep fighting! GEO!” I sent this update to a union rep who is holed up with Indiana lawmakers at the Urbana Comfort Inn. In response I received the following message: “We just announced this to the IN Dems. It helped their resolve considerably.”

Together we are fighting a winning battle! Keep up your spirits and participate in the Work-In at the Illini Union tomorrow from 9-2pm or join the GEO for a lobbying surge from 2-5pm at the YMCA! For those that want to support the occupation, I am also receiving word that people are needed in the building tomorrow evening to prevent it from being closed at 6pm.

The news that a Republican state senator, Dale Schultz, has switched sides in the struggle is a major victory for opponents of the draconian anti-union, anti-worker proposals of Governor Walker. Pressure campaigns have begun on two other Republican state senators, Randy Hopper [telephone (608) 266-5300 and fax (608) 266-5300] and Luther Olson [telephone (608) 266-0751 and fax (608) 266-0751], who appear to be wavering in their support of Governor Walker’s proposals. Meanwhile, two other senators Michael Ellis and Dan Kapanke had supported a 2008 bill (SB 353) granting collective-bargaining rights to the University of Wisconsin-system faculty, and pressure on them is increasing as well.

Michael Ellis: 19th Senate District, Telephone: 608 266-0718,  Fax: 608 267 6798
Email: Sen.Ellis@legis.wisconsin.gov

Dan Kapanke: 32nd Senate District, Telephone: 608 266 5490 or 800 385 3385, Fax: 608 267 5173 E-mail: Sen.Kapanke@legis.wisconsin.gov

It has been a day filled with drama and, for protesters in Madison and elsewhere, victory. Stay close to things here at IWLH as events unfold in Madison and around the country. We will do our best to keep you posted.

–Jason Kozlowski

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