Thursday, March 10, 2011

And the walls come tumbling down Day 5

A beautiful snow-covered morning in the State Capitol.  A brief walk to the Capitol building, arriving five minutes before the doors open for business.  As I enter I'm greeted by the officers of various departments whom I'm becoming friendly with.  They tell me that I'll be the first person in WI history to go through the full body scanners which are now installed at the entryways.  Oh joy oh joy.  I have my bag searched and empty my pockets and walk through the scanner, which immediately lights up like a Christmas tree and beeps like R2-D2 after hitting Rush Limbaugh's pill stash.

"It still needs a little fine tuning," they joke as they pass me through.  Very small crowd of protesters in early this morning, but we did get a 4 to 6 inch snowfall the night before.  I leave a note for the Governor at his office and settle in for the long day.  Around 10 a.m. an officer with the Capitol Police and Security comes over to speak with me.  He tells me that due to my hunger strike they would like for me to give them some basic information just in case medical attention should need to be sought for me.  How thoughtful.  So I give him my name and age, and for some 'medical' reason he also needs my contact numbers and home address (which I suspiciously give) and he duly notes them down in his book.  He hands me a bottle of water (picture on Twitter) and reminds me to stay hydrated.

The crowd builds after 11 a.m. and the statements are read and the slogans chanted until about one in the afternoon.   I meet a pilot who flew in from Michigan just to spend a few hours with us.  A local d.j. introduces herself to me and in expressing her admiration for my commitment is moved to tears.  Wow!!!  What am I getting into with all this?

The pre-closing of the Capitol building chanting and speech-making is soon over and as we're preparing to depart for the day a group of legislative aids and U.W. students rush in informing us that the GOP has found a way around the quorum requirement and are in the Assembly Hall voting on a re-worded version of their collective bargaining/union-busting bill.  Life becomes very hectic very, very fast.  Those of us in the rotunda speed past police to the third floor where the Assembly is already seated and in progress, sneaky little weasels that they are.

We immediately begin chanting "SHAME ON YOU"  and some slightly more fiery slogans at the top of our lungs, letting those mostly-cowards inside the chamber know that we are onto them and their illegal-by-state-law meeting to decide the fate of the state's and hence, the nation's unions.

The sound is so loud, unaided human voices with the decibel level of a concert!  I look behind me and the 50 or so of us originally is somehow now hundreds of infuriated citizens screaming for justice and democracy.  We shouldn't have wasted our breath..  How often do conservatives care about justice or democracy when personal gain is calling them?

So they had a little illegal vote on the issue and passed it in about 18 seconds.  And politics and the people being represented by politicians in Wisconsin ends that fast.  It most likely won't hold up and will be overturned by the State Supreme Court, but that will take time and by then the damage will already be done.  Hopefully it'll mostly be damage to the Republican party.

I had really pushed myself too far by this time and thought I might pass out at the front line of this political mosh-pit, so make for the stairs down to the second level gallery.  Halfway down I nearly pass out and tumble down the granite steps but manage to save myself.

People flood into the building in droves, hundreds, thousands of them.  With my energy levels at zero I decide to leave the Capitol and walk back two blocks and to keep up with what was happening through the media and Internet.

The rest of what happened last night is history (and if you're unaware of it I'd be amazed).  I've resolved to try and get at least four hours sleep before heading back to the Capitol during the small hours of the morning. 
From slow and quiet to enraged multitude in about 5 minutes flat.  What a day.  Can't wait for tomorrow to come around.

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