New post for Working In These Times on the scene in the Wisconsin capitol yesterday:
The capitol erupted. Students and teachers embraced each other, crying; construction workers in hard hats pumped their fists in the air, cheering. A barrel-chested Teamster I had met earlier in the week threw his arms open and locked me in a bear hug.
Still squeezing, he proclaimed, “Madison is a heroic city.” He let go, and rejoined the dance party behind him.
An enormous banner hanging from the second floor of the capitol had read, “We Need 3 Courageous (R) Senators!” Three protesters quickly scrambled up the steps, pulled up the banner, and changed the number to “2.” The screaming and chanting grew deafening.
The showdown in the Madison capitol yesterday was the most extraordinary scene I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. Hundreds of protesters–teachers, steelworkers, students; Wisconsinites of all ages and races and occupations and classes–were all fully prepared to be arrested rather than voluntarily end their two week occupation of the capitol. I interviewed person after person who had never been arrested before (some had never even been to a protest), but they felt so strongly that their jobs and their neighbors’ jobs and their state were under attack with this bill that they were willing to go to jail for it.
The ironic thing, of course, about such a mass group of people who are willing to be arrested is that they can’t all be arrested. And they weren’t.
The atmosphere at the capitol yesterday was ecstatic, but I’ve heard multiple reports on Twitter and elsewhere that police are clamping down today. No one new has been allowed into the capitol–not even press. But as the above picture shows, the crowd is still fairly large. And after their big wins yesterday, I can’t imagine very many of them are ready to throw in the towel yet.