Screen shot of the Ustream feed from the Madison capitol on Sunday at 5:20 PM CT
At 4 pm on Sunday, February 27, the state attempted to close the Madison capitol building, which thousands of public workers and supporters of workers' rights have been occupying to prevent a so-called budget repair bill that would take away collective bargaining rights for unions from being passed. In Egypt's Tahrir Square, now a public space in Cairo that has become a symbol of people power, the military was trying to remove protesters occupying the square.
The military in Egypt moved in and were gathering around
camps in the square that have been kept to continue the revolution. Messages
were being sent out on Twitter indicating military intended to use violence to
forcefully remove the protesters. In Madison, police moved in and had lead
organizers give protesters an opportunity to evacuate the premise. Someone
stood up and spoke to demonstrators suggesting they clench their fists so that
if handcuffs were put on circulation would not be cut off and if they had
contact lens they should remove them in case anything was sprayed.
Hundreds if not over a thousand demonstrators risked arrest in a standoff that lasted for a couple hours. But, the US media could not be bothered to show a live feed of what was going on in the capitol. The image of people power, this aspect of democracy, would not be allowed to obstruct the media's planned coverage of the Oscars. They tuned in to the glitz and glamour on parade in Los Angeles showing off how people were presenting their individual selves to the world on this night.
But, the Oscars would not go on without reference to Gov. Walker's union-busting agenda. Wally Pfister, who won the Best Cinematography Award for "Inception." He thanked his "fantastic union crew" on stage and backstage told the press, "I think what's going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now."
Another winner, Gary Rizzo, who won the award for Best Sound
Mixing on "Inception," thanked "the hard working boom operators and utility
sound people that worked on the production crew." He added, "Union, of course."
Then, of course, there was Charles Ferguson, director of the documentary
"Inside Job." His chronicle of showing how the 2008 economic collapse was
essentially a criminal act won the award for Best Documentary. When he was on
stage he said, "Not a single financial executive has gone to jail and that's
Backstage Ferguson told the press no one responsible for the collapse has been prosecuted because, "The financial industry has become so powerful that it is able to inhibit the normal process of justice and law enforcement."
Typically, the police would have evacuated the protesters after ninety minutes. That did not happen Sunday night. Unlike most protests held, members of the police have been demonstrating or expressing support for those in the capitol. They have recognized this action is an extension of democracy and have rejected Gov. Walker's and other political leaders and pundits' suggestion that democracy begins and ends on Election Day.
Those occupying the capitol for the past two weeks are giving Americans a lesson on democracy. Their action has created an opening for conversation. It has been a result of outrage at a smug and confident governor's move to strip rights from people, sell of state assets and properties to companies that have filled his campaign coffer and further concentrate power in the hands of the executive in the state of Wisconsin. The occupation has been a response to their rage and that response has now become a part of the movement of history.
The action of Wisconsinites has ignited a nationwide uprising in defense of workers' rights. Wisconsinites have shown the power of people, that one does not have to sit back, think they are powerless and let governors advance their assault on the rights of people because they think governors have corporate and special interests to help them deploy ad campaigns, promote their agenda in the media and are able to outspend the people.
In the context of worldwide uprisings, the Wisconsin
struggle fits in because what people are responding to is a state move to
take away rights. There may not be any possibility that tear gas, rubber
bullets, or live rounds go off or that demonstrators are arrested, detained,
and tortured, but just because their actions will not provoke the state to
react violently does not mean talk of how this fits in with other battles
between governments and their people is nonsensical. Wisconsinites are working
to prevent seeds of tyranny from being planted.
Gov. Walker is no President Hosni Mubarak, but he is someone who is using tactics power uses when they are growing increasingly desperate. His regime in Wisconsin has been fooling with Wi-Fi access to prevent the truth of what is going on from getting out, they blocked access to a pro-union website days ago, and he has gone on television to tell his story and benefited from the fact that conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce have moved pundits to tell stories like this as if Gov. Walker is "David" and the Big Unions are "Goliath."
In the capitol on Sunday, for the most part, media coverage of the temporary standoff was limited to an UStream feed that could be accessed on the Internet. Two guys broadcasting from inside the capitol building announced they would be there until they had their feed killed or were forced to leave were Wisconsinites' Al Jazeera English. They were broadcasting the truth as Governor Walker benefited from a kind of repression in the United States that is not violent repression but rather information repression. (And, at one point, WiFi was cutoff and, for a moment, only Fox News was broadcasting live.)
Peter Hart detailed in a blog for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) how "workers' voices" have been shut out of coverage of the struggle. He cited Amanda Terkel who reported the following for Huffington Post on February 24:
A union official told the Huffington Post that when none of the Sunday shows' producers reached out to them to book a labor representative this week, several unions started to pitch the shows with affected workers and local and national leaders who they felt could discuss the protests. The official said the response from the shows was essentially "thanks, but no thanks.