Yesterday they had there annual 'tax day' rally at the Capitol in Madison. One year ago I attended my first tax day rally by these folks. The rally is organized and funded by the Koch brothers through they're group Americans For Prosperity. An ironic name since the purpose of this powerful (due to the massive funding) political entity is to remove as much wealth as possible from the American people and transfer it to the hands of the already overly-prosperous, the 1%.
And AFP has gotten pretty good at tricking working people into falling for the rhetoric they spread which leads to common, salt of the earth Americans working against their own best interest. Which is why they are so commonly referred to as the 'tools & fools' of the TEA party.
A friend of mine on twitter was complaining yesterday about the right wing trolls following her postings there. I told her that the trolls were a sign that she was doing something right. I posted that she had 'debated the wise, educated the unreasonable, and the dregs that are left just might be hopeless'
That sums up the trolls on the Internet and it also sadly enough, kind of summed up the crowd that was bussed in and/or turned up for the tax day rally. The folks were kind of jittery and emotional, whether they were TEA party, Americans For Prosperity, National Rifle Association or just the aids, friends and staffers of republicans in the legislature at the capitol, obligated to attend.
I arrived at the Capitol square nearly two hours before the start time of 11:30 a.m. I first went to check out the stage and audio/video equipment that all of that east coast money had brought. Pretty impressive, a very large stage, twin double audio towers. A portable jumbo tron and banks of computers and mix boards and tons of support gear. The staff alone was probably about two dozen people, and these are the folks who complain about 'big union money' when we have our rallies. Our staging and speakers and one microphone at a rally cost perhaps a tenth of what they spent.
And at our rallies tens of thousands, sometimes over 100,000 people show up and take part. At the rally yesterday they never even had a thousand supporters. There was a small mixed group of TEA party, NRA and AFP all tightly huddled around the stage at 10 a.m. By eleven o clock that number was up to around 500 and slowly growing. And all the rally folks kept huddled together in a tight packed group around the stage for the most part anyway. I don't know if they were fearing a massive counter rally turnout or what, they definitely seemed very much out of place and out of their element.
Last years rally was estimated at around six thousand attending. And I agree with that number, I was there and I always do crowd counts. At last years rally though they had special key speaker Sarah Palin, and with the folks they bussed in from out of state, they had about 3,500 folks there. Counter protesters who also had shown up was at around 2,500 to 3,000. So a total figure of around six thousand or so sounds right.
This years crowd was much smaller and much more timid. By the time the rally started, after they finally got the expensive audio system figured out, they had 600 to perhaps 700 people there to listen to the speakers and show support for Scott Walker and the Koch brothers. Counter protesters numbered around 150 - 200, much lower than last year because of the momentum shift in Wisconsin political dynamics that has occurred in the last year. There was also about a hundred or so Ron Paul supporters and another perhaps fifty or so people who had shown up to distribute literature and talk about religion. So we are looking at about a thousand folks total this year.
They listened to the low-name and no-name speakers, but they didn't really get the crowd fired up. Some of the speakers spoke about dirty hippies and democrats defecating and having gay sex at the Capitol and it costing 7.5 million in damage last year. Truly insane rhetoric which I wont even cover here much except to say at first it was amusing, but then it just all became kind of dull and sad.
A single African-American speaker was once again produced and brought out (they always have that one well paid minority they spotlight at these events, just like Walker does) and he spoke about how the democrats were dis-enfranchising minority youth by challenging GOTea redistricting. He said that black women and children are particularly vulnerable to left wing legislation and that only in the GOTea could they find safety and security as citizens. He then said that the whole African-American was grateful for the new carried-concealed weapons laws. Yeah I know I think I actually threw up a little when he recited that. At least he had the sense not to praise the new 'castle doctrine' laws that just killed Bo Morrison. Even Quislings have their limits I guess. I know that Manny Perez did and felt remorse for harming the Latino/Hispanic community.
Like I said the crowd response was pretty mixed about hearing this already defamed rhetoric from a year ago being tossed up again. Many of the right wing folks in the crowd began to leave early, others walked away from the stage, shaking there heads and looking somewhat lost. Many more just kind of stood there quietly looking uncomfortable. There were no new and inspiring words, no news of the movement they belonged to gaining ground. The next couple of speakers tried resorting to violent rhetoric and calls for direct action and mentioned that they had more freedom as citizens now to become politically involved now that they could carry guns with them.
I couldn't listen to too much of that crap, so I wandered constantly through and around the crowd. Trying to get estimates on crowd numbers, from what party or movement, and where they were from. I was dressed neutrally and was able to speak freely with lots of different folks who just assumed I was politically 'sitting on the fence'
I listened to the bible thumping crowd that although was politically with AFP and the NRA, still felt that they were hell bound for playing rock and roll music during the rally, and also for women being seen in public wearing pants instead of a long skirt or dress.
One woman from the right wing was very upset that counter protesters were at the edge of the crowd and went and confronted them. She spoke in a very heavy accent European accent and was accosting a Tibetan-American counter protester vehemently. She actually had the audacity to say the words "go back where you came from" to the person she was accosting. This statement was followed up by calling the counter protester a 'communist' over and over again. Really calling a Tibetan a communist sympathiser?!?!?! The woman was totally shocked and the reaction she received after saying these offensive words, she was so lost she thought she was in the right to tell citizens to go back to where they came from, when she is obviously not from anywhere within 10,000 miles of Wisconsin. Hypocrisy is always ugly.
Arthur Kohl-Riggs the Lincoln Republican candidate for governor, running against Walker showed up and was pretty darn well received. He spoke with folks of all stripes and his quiet and intelligent demeanor led to much positive discussion amongst politically diverse people.
John Nichols of The Progressive, and John 'Sly' Sylvester arrived and brought some other counter protesters with them. Graehme Zilinski of the Democratic party was also supposedly there though I didn't run into him as I made my way through the crowd. I did notice a couple of folks that seemed to have something hanging off of their hips. I moved a little closer and took a better look and there it was....a gun.
Actually two guys with AFP shirts, worn work boots and holstered handguns, one semi-automatic, and one big ol six shooter pistol, probably a .45 I went and had a quick conversation with a sergeant and a lieutenant of the Capitol Police & Security force who were heavily patrolling the right wing event. They informed me that they had counted five people so far carrying guns. I pointed out the two I had spotted and they said that brought the total to seven. They also said that they were very unhappy about it, but they were stuck dealing with that new law now.
I continued to work my way through the crowd and was surprised at how many people on the political right were leaving the event early. They were not happy with the speakers, or the speeches, they didn't seem happy about how many of them had shown up at all. And they were definitely not happy by the atmosphere of the event. The counter protesters had all the pep and vinegar in the world. They had they're information straight and could out-debate anyone in the right wing crowd. Not that the crowd seemed to have much strength or desire for debate or argument.
That is understandable when the person they support, the pillar of their strength here in Wisconsin is Scott Walker. A year ago Walker was a momentum filled underdog, and the right wing believed in him as a person and as a leader. Now a year later Walker had a legal defense fund, he devotes all his time to fund raising and his legal defense efforts. He has spent perhaps one hundred hours on the job as Governor in the last nine months. Fifteen felonies have been filed against his staff as well as numerous misdemeanors. Large parts of his staff have either fled the sinking ship or have taken immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony. The party has already lost a round of recalls last year, and is now facing six more including the Governor and his second in command. No wonder the right wing was so disheartened?
About half of the right wing crowd had drifted off, dispersed, or just plain gone home by the time the key speaker, Lt Gov Kleefisch took the stage. She tried to be fired up but she wasn't feeling the spirit either. I think she knew this years rally was a sham and a failure and that the likelihood of there being another next year is null. So she stuck her daughter in front of the camera's, said something about loving Wisconsin and then she was gone after about ninety seconds.
We have all the unity and the strength you brave and bold badgers. We have all the facts and the state and numbers and we know we are on the right side. That is why the extreme radical right is so diminished. And that is why yesterday we were One Year Longer, One Year Stronger.
On Wisconsin! FORWARD!!!!
Added to post on 4/19 http://reform-dem.blogspot.com/2012/04/extremely-low-turnout-for-2012-afp-tea.html