In Wisconsin: On the Ground In Solidarity

This past Saturday 80,000 of my closest friends and I rallied at the capitol in Madison. This time I volunteered to be a marshall. We had a brief orientation at 9 AM, got our cool orange vests, and then were assigned to teams. I got assigned to “Team Stage,” which was responsible for escorting our celebrity speakers to and from the rally and other press appearances. So I got to spend the day with Josh from West Wing (Brad Whitford) and one of the writers of Gossip Girl and someone who was on 90210 (Gabrielle Carteris) and a guy who has been on the Guiding Light for 20 years (Robert Newman). Man, these people were hardcore union activists — and they came to fire people up! They were lovely people, and it was a blast to hang out with them. I even got to hold hands with Gabrielle (okay, it was because we were walking down a slippery hill).

They all gave great speeches — right after Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary), who was a combination of inspiring and frustratingly long-winded (but he was well-intentioned). After the rally I went inside the capital and yelled and screamed — and then walked around all the floors and took photos of the amazing people and signs, because this was supposed to be the last night before the capitol got cleaned out. And then I went to dinner with the celebrities and union organizers and firefighters – wow, what a day.

Solidarity: I’m 53 years old, and I have never, ever witnessed solidarity like this. I’ve always felt we are all interconnected, but I’ve never seen it demonstrated like this before.

War & Peace: The most moving speakers on Saturday were a group of Iraq vets who passed around a microphone, talking about the $2 billion per year that comes from WI to pay for the wars, and how that money should be staying at home. They also said that the reason they fought was to protect our freedom — and that the freedom being expressed in the capitol by the protesters is exactly what they were fighting for.

For some reason, we all forget that we’re fighting two wars that cost us $1 trillion each year, and that maybe that has something to do with all of the economic difficulties we are having back home.

Trying to see the other side: This past Thursday I worked hard to see the other side. I listened to the tape of Gov. Walker’s phone call with the fake Koch brother (highly recommended), and read through the website of Americans for Prosperity. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t swayed, but I did come away kind of depressed — because these folks are really committed to their agenda, which is not only bad for public employee unions, but also bad for all kinds of “social programs” — like the stuff that we all do. At times like these, we should all talk with our colleague Todd Mandel from the Coulee CLT, who is amazing at framing CLT stuff in solid Republican terms.

What Happens Next: Our state senators are still hiding out in Illinois, people are still sleeping over at the capitol — but with the ever-present threat of protestors being evacuated, I think things are going to get really tense over the next few days.

That’s about it for today.

Greg Rosenberg
Greg Rosenberg is a freelance consultant, with a diverse practice focusing on affordable housing, universal design, community land trusts, sustainable development practices, urban agriculture, distance learning, and technology for nonprofits. He is the former Academy Director for the National Community Land Trust Network, and previously served as Executive Director of the Madison Area Community Land Trust, where he managed development of the nationally award-winning Troy Gardens eco-village. He is a licensed attorney, a LEED AP, and is still working up the courage to play blues guitar at open mic night.

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