Spent the full day Friday with farmers from Wisconsin protesting at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for their price-fixing & decimation of family farms across the Midwest, and an evening with them and a number of socialist artists at a warehouse collective studio space for a potluck that night. Saturday was a fine rally on the State Street steps in the late morning and early afternoon – but as soon as I had the flexibility to leave that side, I headed right over to the King Street side where the Koch Brothers’ Americans For Prosperity sank a shitload of money into a huge sound & video system for a rally starring none other than Sarah Palin. We’ve never had anything resembling the set-up those motherfuckers had – for all the good it did them. Approximately 700 Tea Party people showed up to see their girl (as well as sages like Andrew Breitbart and John Fund), and about 6,000 of us showed up to protest.
And protest we did. I just uploaded the video I took during Palin’s screeching – it’s all in chronological order as I took it, just with short edits when the camera was too shaky or I had to adjust the viewfinder. If you didn’t get a chance to get down there in the wind-whipped snow or may’ve only seen the soundboard / direct-mic feed from the event, this is a good alternate view from us on the ground. It’s a pretty accurate account of what I experienced when I was down there – only my camera’s mic caught far more from the huge concert speakers than my ears did. I could not hear a damn word that woman said for her full 15 minutes, aside from one point where she was clearly complaining about “OOBAAAAAAAMMMAAAAAAAAAA,” like nails on a chalkboard. In the video, you can at least make out words like “government-funded abortions” & “throwing us under the bus.” It’d actually make a pretty great Mad-Libs game, inventing one of her preposterous speeches.
Today, as part of Tax Day protests, we had a really good coalition of activists. Spearheaded by Wisconsin Resists and our new chapter of US Uncut here, we gathered downtown shortly before noon to target tax-dodging corporate monoliths. Kismet struck, because Dark Ages-afficiando Paul Ryan was having a private, paid speaking engagement during lunch at the Madison Club. We went from there to Chase Bank, a couple people popped into Merrill Lynch, and then we went and tried to occupy M&I Bank. They saw us coming, put the metal gate down inside the bank, and locked us completely out. (Also shutting down the entire bank for business.) At some point, the outside door popped open for a quick sec, so we jammed it open and flooded into the outside lobby. A sole security guard was tasked with keeping us from bumrushing the internal doors – eventually four city cops showed up, but actually didn’t force us to leave. We went back & forth for awhile, and ultimately avoided arrest by agreeing to picket outside the doors on the sidewalk. We stayed there for maybe 45 minutes, then a few of us illegally snuck a portable PA system back into the Capitol. (Amplified sound machinery’s been banned for a month & a half in the Capitol) The cop presence there is notably diminished from February & March and we’re trying to figure out how we can take advantage of it. Pretty easily, as it turns out. One point-man went in through the “official” entrance, where we’re still subject to metal detectors & our junk being wanded, as well as searches of anything on our person. He propped open a door above the ground floor, and we just marched right in through this wouldbe emergency exit. We held it down in there for about a half-hour, but damn it felt good to be back in there, doing that. There were elementary-ish schoolkids (about 11 years old) on a tour, so we appealed to them and got some of them to join us in chants of “Student Power! Student Power!” A couple of these agitator-tots were raising their fists in solidarity with us, and their teachers were waving at us and taking pictures.
Eventually, of course, cops made us leave, but admirably didn’t ticket us or otherwise threaten us. We took the PA outside for a few minutes, and lo & behold, saw none other than State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald walking alone across the Square. Conveniently, his brother Jeff is the Speaker of the Assembly and their father’s the head of the State Patrol – hence our anger with “FitzWalkerstan” lately. We immediately ran after him with the mic, tried to get him to talk to us, and followed him down the block. He ducked into a U.S. Bank and we followed him into the elevator he tried to escape in, blaring Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on the PA the whole time. Of course, we also were forced out of there eventually, but I got a good chunk of it on video and will upload it later tonight.
“We’re no strangers to love, Scotty. You know the rules and so do we. . . We were just trying to tell you how we’re feeling. Make you understand.”
Thank you so much to everyone who’s been able to show up the last few days.
Stay strong, kids –
peace, resistance & solidarity.