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55,000 rally at Wisconsin State Capitol to protest attacks on unions

By Jacob Flom |
February 19, 2011
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Protesters pack in and around Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Feb. 19, 2011
Protesters pack in and around Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Feb. 19, 2011 (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Madison, WI - 55,000 people - workers, students and their families - occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol Feb. 19 against anti-union legislation. It was the sixth straight day of protest. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led a student march through the streets with students from across Wisconsin and the Midwest. Carrying a banner that read, “Students and workers - unite and fight!” they were greeted with loud cheers as they approached over 10,000 workers on the capitol lawn.

As union workers continue to occupy the capitol building in defense of their collective bargaining rights, the fight for education rights is also growing in Wisconsin. As if Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on public employees were not bad enough for public services, he will soon propose budget cuts to public education that would be “devastating” according to Milwaukee school board president Michel Bonds. Proposed changes to the University of Wisconsin system could raise undergraduate tuition as much as 26% over two years. In response to the crisis Walker is creating for education, on Feb. 19 SDS joined a coalition of student organizations to plan actions for the coming week, and to build for the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education on March 2.

Sad Showing for Union-Busters

About 1000 Tea Party supporters came to rally for Governor Walker’s union-busting. As the Tea Party rally began, tens of thousands of people marched in a pro-union rally that surrounded the Tea Party rally and the entire capitol building. Students from SDS joined members of the Teamsters Local 200 and Veterans for Peace in confronting and drowning out the Tea Party with pro-union chants.

Occupation Will Continue

The Wisconsin State Capitol Building remains occupied by union supporters as the struggle enters its sixth day. Unions have set up makeshift offices inside the building and a drum circle rages at the heart of the Capitol Rotunda, leading chants and dancing. The walls of the building are plastered in pro-union signs, as the capitol building has become a symbol of worker power and an inspiration to working class people everywhere.

Although all the buses in southern Wisconsin are booked solid, organizers are expecting the largest numbers yet on Monday and Tuesday if Republicans do not scrap the anti-union legislation. Students are also adding fuel to the fire as they build solidarity with workers and bring the struggle for education rights to the Wisconsin state capitol.