Glimpse Inside the Madison Capitol Occupation

27 Feb

As part of our extensive ongoing coverage of the amazing events in Madison and the capitol, I will post many first-hand accounts of the protests and people’s perspectives.  The vast amount of written and video material is a testament to more than the incredible potential for solidarity in our digital age, for literally thousands of people have become journalists for their own lives and history in the making. It is a testament to the pervasive, growing, and largely organic networks of solidarity that have quickly formed to support workers under attack in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It is also a testament to a growing class consciousness fueled by the mounting economic desperation that so many millions of Americans face, the power vacuum among many liberals and unions that helped to spur these draconian, anti-union right-wing attacks, and the realization among millions that we’re in the midst of an incredible, historic moment. Lastly (for now), this straightforward yet deeply emotional piece reveals just how supportive people can be toward each other, largely strangers, when they open their minds and hearts to others and see commonalities in their plight. It is truly inspiring to see this powerful surge of solidarity and support among and for workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and I am proud to be a small part of something so massive and crucial.

[N.B. While the e-mail from which I obtained this leaves me somewhat unclear of the source, I am pretty sure it is written by Brian Dolinar of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) Public I]:

I am sitting in the Wisconsin state capitol where the floor is pounding and air thudding with the thousands of people crowded into this icon of state power as the occupation continues. It is difficult to describe, or even understand, what is happening here.

People are walking around with an air of awe and bewilderment.

Wisconsin police stop the protesters and thank them for coming, and yesterday they refused orders to arrest those occupying the building (what kind of strange Twilight Zone am I in?). Yet, they also closed the doors at 6pm and won’t let anyone enter.

A volunteer stops to ask for my contact information, explaining that Wisconsin locals want to know how many people will be needing food.

Iraq Veterans Against the War address the crowd, fists in the air, saying: We are workers too. End these wars so we can take care of each other here at home. They read a statement calling for the Wisconsin National Guard to refuse and resist mobilization orders in the event they are given (Walker has threatened to deployment).

A woman passes by, offering me a sandwich.

Protesters are informed that state troopers are coming in at 4pm tomorrow to clear the capitol and arrest those who stay. People here seem determined to defend the space.

There are signs everywhere that say “keep the capitol clean” and “thank you capitol staff.”

The sound is not letting up, people continue chanting and shouting for hours as the sound ricochets off of the arching walls.

In some ways, the crowd is heterogeneous. Earlier today, thousands sang the national anthem in unison, hands on their hearts. There are also signs decrying capitalism, the wars, and wealth disparities. Unions are in full force, people are shaking hands all around, thanking strangers for their presence.

However, the racial makeup is surprisingly white. I am eager to make contact with local folks and find out more about who feels comfortable in this space, what layers underlie the racial demographics.

A woman with a small, crying child is assisted by four strangers.

Police did not allow blankets in so we are all planning to sleep on the cold marble floors. Despite this, I think it will be a good night, as I share this space with thousands of strangers in this occupied capitol turned spontaneous community.

–Jason Kozlowski


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