I left the Wisconsin Capitol today (May 25, 2011) with a heavy heart after Walker signed into law one of the most oppressive voting rights laws in the country.
However, it lifts my spirits to see that the people of Wisconsin are continuing to act in resistance and we are not going to roll over and take whatever Walker wants to give us.
I was in the Capitol rotunda today with the daily noontime solidarity sing along which has been going strong for over 100 days. There are about 25-50 or more people there everyday singing union songs, civil rights songs, and some of my favorites from our DC actions, like "Keep your eyes on the prize." Today as I was singing, clapping, and stomping to "Which side are you on?" I looked up in the balcony and was overcome by emotion as I noticed a sign that said "SHAME". That one word is so powerful. The governor and right-wing legislators care about their corporate benefactors. They don't care a whit about what happens to the people of Wisconsin, and it is hard to imagine how they can sleep at night, but they do. They are the people in Wisconsin who should be so ashamed of what they are doing, yet they have no shame at all. It was an especially meaningful day to be singing in the rotunda while hundreds of others chanted in front of Walker's office as he signed the "voter suppression bill".
I don't tweet (don't really even know what it is), but I heard that one of our state legislators tweeted that she is so tired of hearing people singing union songs in our rotunda everyday. She doesn't know why someone doesn't stop it. She doesn't think any other "place of business" would put up with this nonsense. Apparently she is not familiar with the First Amendment. And she must not have passed her high school civics lessons if she believes our state capitol is a "place of business".
While at the Capitol today I was talking to a young man who went to high school with my son. He was telling me that he had been sitting through some of the legislative hearings with other activists, holding an 8 1/2 x 11 inch sign emphasizing the importance of following the Constitution. The citizen activist didn't say anything - just sat silently holding the sign over their chests. The police removed them from the hearing room and ticketed them. Yesterday they brought copies of the US Constitution on parchment paper and held the constitution during a hearing. The police realized how ridiculous it would be to removed them from the hearing room and ticket them for holding a copy of the US Constitution and the activists were left alone.
When we walk into our Capitol now, there is only one entrance open to the public. We are searched and have to go through a metal detector. A sign at the entrance lists about 20 things that cannot be brought into the Capitol like musical instruments, sleeping bags, loud speakers etc. Another sign reads that demonstrations are only allowed on the ground floor. This is not the Wisconsin we have always lived in with free access to our Capitol to petition our government for a redress of grievances. But resistance continues. Today, with Walker signing the "voter suppression bill" there were a lot more people at the Capitol. There was a big stack of metal Popeye and Betty Boop lunch boxes that people could pick up and put coins in to shake and make noise. Everyday citizens go to the balcony overlooking the ground floor of the rotunda to hold signs and challenge the rule that demonstrations are confined to the ground floor.
Resistance continues outside the Capitol. There was a "Reverse Robin Hood" action at banks around the Capitol square a week ago. A couple of banks locked their doors as activists went into the banks attempting to deposit a penny into the accounts of the bank CEOs - robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
Wisconsinites are resisting. There are many examples of Wisconsin citizens continuing to stand up for justice. One of the songs we sing at the solidarity sing along is "It isn't nice". I think many people in Wisconsin, including me, like to be "nice". The song says it is not nice to block the doors, picket, go to jail etc. but when you are dealing with men of ice, it doesn't always work to be nice. We are not giving up and that is what gives me hope on this sad day as voters rights in Wisconsin are being destroyed. The words ring so clear as we sing in the Capitol rotunda everyday, "We shall overcome".