March 13, 2011 11:46 AM
Now that the emphasis is about to shift from the energetic protests at the Capitol to court action, recall efforts and the draconian biennial budget bill, it's a good time to take stock of the last month and what it means for Madison.
First, a quick update. The fight isn't over, and we're not giving up. Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette will not publish the anti-collective bargaining bill passed and signed into law in a rush session last week until March 25. This gives time for the District Attorney and Attorney General to consider legal arguments made by Madison and others that the legislature's action should be voided because of serious violations of the open meetings law.
Saturday's welcome home rally for the fourteen Democratic Senators was a remarkable and fitting tribute to these legislators who bought us time to make our voices heard and to organize a response to Governor Walker's sweeping aside of forty years of labor peace. I'm particularly proud of the three senators who represent Madison because they all played leadership roles in that effort. Senators Mark Miller, Fred Risser and Jon Erpenbach deserve our thanks for what they've done and for what they will do in the months ahead.
But for tens of thousands of Madisonians, there is a deep sense of having played a role in an important moment in history. I doubt that any of us will forget these few weeks as long as we live or that we won't look back on them with pride. For twenty-six days Madison was the center of a national debate about worker rights and even broader issues of human rights. I was told by people who should know that Saturday's rally may have been the largest labor rally in history anywhere.
We carried signs, we invented chants, we sang songs, we brought our children to witness democracy in action and history in the making. And it was all done with characteristic Madison spirit: an earnest sense of purpose leavened with a little playfulness. A dog with a tent sign that simply read, "Grrrrr." A chorus line of people in cow costumes spelling out S-O-L-I-D-A-R-I-T-Y. A chant that suggested that the Governor was a different animal than a Badger.
And through it all, we conducted ourselves with respect for one another and for our public spaces. Our police reported that their most common problem was giving directions to people who had forgotten where the parking ramp was. In fact, they say that all crime was down dramatically downtown during this whole period. Our Mall Concourse crews reported a cleaner Capitol Square than normal. Protesters inside the building were careful to select blue painters tape to secure their signs to Capitol walls because it left the least adhesive behind. It was passionate, it was loud, but it was also Midwest polite. Our family photo looked good to the world.
I imagine that there will continue to be periodic protests at the Capitol, but as the focus shifts to action in other venues, we can look back on St. Valentines Day to St. Patrick's Day of 2011 as a month when our community came together like never before, when we stood up and clearly stated what we believed to a listening nation, and when we birthed a movement whose best days are ahead of it.