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General News    H1'ed 3/3/11

Mark Andersen, Reporting from Madison

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My guest today is Mark Andersen. Welcome to OpEdNews. You wrote a very poignant piece   Wisconsin - I do not know where to begin...  that appeared in the Daily Kos yesterday. You're live in Madison so you have a front-row seat for the action. Get us started.  There's Gov. Walker and then there are thousands of protesters. Who are they, where did they come from and what do they want? 
 Who are the protesters? Well one of them is my brother, he works as the lead carpenter for Sun Prairie Schools, another is my friend Tanya, she is a custodian for Madison schools. There is my friend Don who drives a plow truck for the county. My friend Dean who just lost his job as the company he worked for moved to a right to work state. The protesters are really a cross section of Wisconsin. I have met teachers from Sauk Prairie and Waterford, factory workers from Milwaukee. University Professors, truck drivers, nurses, small business owners. Some union, some non-union. What do they want...respect and fairness. This is not about money, not by a long is about the governor acting more like a dictator instead of as the elected leader of his state.

Some media coverage has painted this as a rude, unruly and even violent group filled with lots of 'agitators' from out of state.  Is that what you've found?

Rude? HA! One night when I was at the Capitol, people were passing around bags of Snickers Bars. I have taken my 11 year old son up to the protests multiple times. No, this is Midwestern polite on steroids. Everyone has been wonderful, including the police officers. I cannot say enough good things about the officers. When they finish a shift, they change clothes and are out there with us protesting.

As for outside agitators, No, they do not exist. Are some people here from out of state, yes. Are they agitators? No. I think out the multiple times I have been there I have met a total of two people from out of state and they had relatives here.

Hmmm... A very different picture than the one Fox News paints.  That's interesting about the off-duty police officers joining the protesters. They're in a bind, aren't they? There were various reports/rumors circulating that the Governor was bolting the windows shut and/or keeping food out of the Capitol in order to get the protesters to give up and go home.  What's the real story, Mark?

Fox news seems to think, from a video on Bill O'Reilly, that we have palm trees here. The police are in a terrible bind. You can tell they don't want to be there and they are with the protesters, and it is not just the Madison Police and Dane County Deputies. I have seen DNR [Department of Natural Resources] wardens providing security chanting with the crowds. I had an officer yesterday tell me that he disagrees with the Capitol being closed, but, he has to do his job.

I am not so sure about the windows being bolted shut...there were a lot of rumors flying around that particular day. I saw the photos of the one window that was bolted shut. The official line from a local news station was that a lock on the window had been broken and the bolts were a temporary repair. I am fairly confident in the report from this local station. I have never known them to do a poor job reporting.

The keeping food out as far as I can tell is true. I have been following Ian's pizza on Facebook and from what they have been posting, they cannot get into the Capitol to deliver food. Although after the events of this evening, that may be a moot point. 

Representative Milroy, from waaaay up north...having office hours outside

So the Capitol is closed? For how long? And what happened this evening that you're referring to? Not all of us are as up to date on this as we might like.

The Capitol was closed last night. Events are still unfolding now. A judge ruled that the state could not close the Capitol during business hours. A little bit before six tonight about 100 protesters stormed the Capitol and got in. About the same time a judge ruled that the protesters who had been camping out had to leave the Capitol. They would all be readmitted tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM. There were rumors of police in Riot gear at one point. From the last update I saw the Capitol Police chief was leading the last of the protesters out of the Capitol to cheers.

Who was cheering? Who's happy that the protesters are leaving? And what does this all mean? I read they found live ammo on the grounds of the Capitol and were closing down for security reasons.

The protesters are cheering...we (as in the protesters) have won. The Judge found that the Governor was not making the Capitol open enough for the public. What it means is that the protesters can protest in the Capitol in force during business hours. But they cannot spend the night in the Capitol. Which is reasonable to me. Yesterday, was horrible...seeing my Capitol locked down. I felt like I was in some banana republic.

The live ammo...the theory is that it was planted by either someone on the right or a Walker ally. The ammunition was just too convenient to be placed there by a protester. 

Notes from protesters who want to enter Capitol Building

It smelled fishy to me, too. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself. Are you an unruly radical or something?

I am a Madison native, an Army vet. Son of a Teamster. I work for a phone company in the IS (Information Systems department) and I am pursuing a Masters degree in writing. I am not a radical...had you told me that I would be joining a protest march, I would have told you that you were nuts!

My Dad was union, my brother is union, my sister was union until she retired. I have a lot of friends who work in the public sector. My brother is talking about retiring early as he will make as much money on his pension as he would if he kept working with the cuts Walker is proposing.

But this is not just about collective bargaining. Walker is cutting 900 million from education. Preventing school districts from raising property taxes to make up the cuts. Medicaid is being slashed. I fear for my state veterans' education benefits. He wants to split up the UW system...which will do nothing but raise tuition and lower the quality of education. He is repealing laws that force insurance companies to provide birth control for women (I have no idea what that has to do with balancing the budget). I have never in my life seen anything like this before. He is gutting everything that makes this state great.

News on the Capitol...the protesters have left, the building will be closed for 48 hours for cleaning. Will reopen for regular business hours after 48 hours.

I understand the governor has an agenda. He was a big recipient of campaign money from the Koch brothers. But what about the legislature? Where are they in all this?

I am baffled by the actions of the legislature. Let me rephrase that, I am baffled by the Republicans in the legislature. They are marching in lockstep with the governor. They seem to think that because they have the majority the can just legislate from the far right. They keep saying we have a deficit problem, we don't we have a revenue problem. Programs have already been cut to cannot cut anymore. Taxes need to be raised on corporations and the richest 1%. The middle class cannot afford to bear all of the burden for a crappy economy. I am glad the 14 democratic Senators left the state. They gave us time to get organized and out there protesting this horrible bill and budget.

Any last words for our readers? 

I think what I said in my diary last a veteran, I am appalled at the power grab that I see going on here in Wisconsin. Locking people out of the Capitol, overreaching laws that have nothing to do with the budget and the pettiness of the Republicans in the legislature...taking away the parking places of the Democratic 14...really? Like that is going to make them come back to the Capitol to vote for a horrible bill.

Thanks so much for talking with me, Mark. Hang in there. We're with you guys!

all photos [except his head shot] by Mark Andersen

Mark's profile [Kodiak54] from the Daily Kos Community Site : 43 year old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, Part-time Grad Assistant, Full-time IS worker, and yes, I do eat and sleep at times as well.
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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