Except this wasn't the usual tea party groups that we are used to seeing here in Madison. These were mostly middle aged and older folks, more females than males by about a two to one margin. Very curious indeed. From past experience they usually send in small groups of young and very aggressive males to initiate violence with the females who are singing.
Tensions were still high though and within a few minutes Chris Reeder who leads the sing-along announced that he was heading outside to finish today's event, peacefully leaving the rotunda to the far right wing radicals. Most of the group (of singers) followed him outside but many of us stayed inside to observe what the tea party was up to. The police presence was too strong for them to become physically violent so it was assumed that they would instead launch into some sort of radical tirade or hateful chanting. None of that occurred though.
People from both sides were mostly standing around or milling about the rotunda. A single tea partier walked up to a group of our folks and began yelling and making violent hand gestures inches from the face of one of our singers. Not wanting the young man from our side to be tempted to respond to this I came up along side the tea party guy and clapped my hands once about a foot from his ear. He turned towards me startled by the sound and advanced butting his chest into mine. He had a bit of a freaky look in his eyes and I was sure he was going to assault me. Very rare indeed for a right winger to actually risk a physical altercation with another male of his own size.
Instead he looked me dead in the eye and in a barely audible whisper told me that he would kill me. He stated that he would 'rape me, kill me and eat me.' He repeated this twice, I was somewhat stunned I have to admit. I always considered the tea party to be something along the lines of rabid dogs but this was not expected at all. At this time a couple of ladies called my name and asked me to back away from this individual and I did. Several state troopers then informed the guy that inciting violence would not be tolerated and that he would be removed from the building and/or arrested if he continued. He flared with self righteous indignation but he did back down. One of the singers carefully approached the man and to my surprise within a couple of minutes the two of them were talking peacefully together in a calm and reasonable voice.
Still from the ground floor of the rotunda came the chanting from our side and soon the tea party was shouting down at the individual that they needed to speak. We needed to stop smashing their right to speak. Or maybe more aptly they wanted our silence so that they could repeat the rhetoric taught to them by their corporate masters. So we called for silence and quickly the rotunda was in absolute silence. Our folks stood quietly with the two fingered peace sign in the air reminding us to be peaceful and give the right wing a chance to say something as they were of course far outnumbered even by our now diminished ranks.
None of them had anything to say whatsoever, not a word, not one peep. After a full minute of this we broke our silence and began discussing how the radical right had nothing to say because without the words of the corporate powers in hand they had no words. No ability it seemed to even think and come up with something, it was a very interesting experience indeed.
Quickly some preacher (southern baptist convention my best guess) began arguing with the police that he had a permit and that only his group had a right to be in the rotunda. All the people who in their minds did not agree with them had to leave, the police had to make us leave he stated. The police were not even close to being amused by this, but I was, as the chief of the Capitol Police and Security informed him on friendly but no uncertain terms that 1. He had no such permit. 2. No such permit exists because 3. The capitol building is a public space and anyone is free to use it.
That shut him up rather effectively I thought. I was just starting to quietly ask some of the tea party members what state they came from because there were nearly fifty of them and that means at least half of them had to be from outside Wisconsin. They quickly became quiet and looked away from me. So I approached a group of older tea party folks who looked like they must have reached retirement age. I asked them if they were receiving social security checks which would make them socialists or communists by their own rhetoric. Once again they looked ashamed and confused and couldn't answer me, so I walked away.
So I start taking some pictures of all these folks from our side and theirs, nobody was saying or doing anything much just sort of milling around and that is when a beautiful thing happened. The folks from the left and the middle and the slightly to the right of middle (us) began talking with the folks on the radical right (them). And talk they did, like calm rational people discussing issues of relevance. No 'us' or 'them' just talking and comparing opinions. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Was I witnessing a breakdown of the radical right as they realized that we are all human beings. Was I watching the protester's starting to regain respect for the opposition as they tried communicating with people who don't agree with everything they say. Was this the re-emergence of civility in our state so recently torn asunder? Glory be. Solidarity.
On Wisconsin! FORWARD!!!!