In the largest rally gathered in Madison to date, about 150,000 protesters amassed today, March 12th, 2011, outside the Wisconsin State Capitol. They came from all over Wisconsin to thank the 14 Democratic Wisconsin Senators that left the state and went to the land of Lincoln in a filibuster like move to slow down the Republicans attempt to strip collective bargaining rights.
The rally started earlier in the morning with a "tractorcade" of farmers and over 50 tractors and other vehicles that ended at the Madison State Capital. Wisconsin farmers descended on the Capitol in Madison to protest the budget bill and stripping of workers rights passed by the Republicans only two days earlier. With a chorus of cars driving by honking in support, John Nichols of the Nation was interviewed by The Uptake, a citizen-fueled online video news gathering organization, as he rode on top of an antique fire truck in the parade. John Nichols, a seventh generation Wisconsinite, stated, "It has been a long time since Wisconsin has been this united, and since the farmers and workers of the state have spoken in so loud and clear a voice."
Later around 3:00 pm the crowd roared with approval and thanked 13 of the 14 Wisconsin Democratic Senators that paraded through the crowd to the stage to receive a hero's welcome from the 150,000 people amassed at Capital Square. One by one the senators thanked the crowd for their support and rallied the crowd to keep the fight alive.
Democratic Senator Chris Larson spoke and said, "we trade in our rally signs for clipboards" and urged the crowd to continue the fight to recall the 8 Republican senators eligible for recall that sided with Republican Governor Scott Walker and his war on worker's rights. Senator Larson spoke earlier at a news conference at noon at Monona Terrace along with the other returning Senators and said, "we woke up the sleeping middle class to what the differences are between the two parties."
Another of the 14 Democratic Senators said, "the Koch Brothers do not have enough money to stop the people of Wisconsin in this recall effort."
Fred Risser, a Democrat whose nearly six decades of service makes him the longest-tenured state legislator in the country, said, "Wisconsin is proud of its public sector workers and this is the start of Phase II".
Democratic Senator Spencer Coggs, thanked the crowd saying, "thank you for being Wisconsin's voice while we were gone, no thank you for being America's voice while we were gone." He said they have now returned to unite with the workers of Wisconsin and to fight to get back the worker's their rights that Republican Scott Walker and the Republican legislators have stripped from them. At the news conference earlier in the day Senater Coggs said Walker has forced fellow Republicans into "walking the plank" by passing this law. This was a reference to the recall efforts that have been underway all across the state for about a week now.
Already recall organizers say they have more than 33% of the signatures needed for at least 2 of the Republican Senators. Another 6 Republican senators are being targeted and efforts and financial resources continue to pour in. Nearly $2 million has poured in thus far from supporters around the country to fund the recall drives.
As one teacher said towards the end of the rally, "today we are not teaching history, we are making history."