From Madison, Wisconsin: Where The Cops, The Iraq War Vets, The Correctional Officers, and The Firefighters Side With The People
This is some incredible footage. Hat tip to NeoGriot. These men and women refuse to be co-opted by the likes of Scott Walker.
From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol (February 26, the night after the questionable Assembly vote on the budget repair bill), RAN ally Ryan Harvey reports:
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”
Ryan reported on his Facebook page earlier today:
“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.”
You can find more updates from Ryan Harvey on Twitter @ryanharveysongs and his blog Even If Your Voice Shakes (a WordPress blog).
Here are the firefighters.
And the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war veterans:
And here is a guy who is a war vet AND a correctional officer. This was recorded February 24. I have no doubt this union brother is out there right now.
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) appeared this morning on MSNBC, and was asked about the protests in the Capitol. He dismissed them. “Most of them are college students who are always up for a demonstration,” he sniffed. It’s a common refrain from supporters of Walker, marginalizing their opponents by calling them hippie college students.
First of all, 100,000 Wisconsinites are expected in Madison today. I don’t think that many students matriculate at UW. Second, and Grotham wouldn’t know this because he and his Republican colleagues wouldn’t set foot in the common areas of the Rotunda, but there are families sleeping over. There are cops. There are firefighters. There are teachers. There are public union and private union and non-union workers. There are single moms and sheet metal workers and janitors and truck drivers and office workers. And there are students. Last I checked they all have a vote and a voice in our democracy.
But maybe the best example disarming this dirty hippie meme is Sgt. First Class Chet Millard, who I spoke with a couple days ago. Millard served in Iraq in 2003-04 and in Afghanistan in 2009, as a platoon sergeant from the Wisconsin National Guard. While on tour in Afghanistan on a mission disarming roadside bombs, his vehicle was hit. He suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury, and was taken on a Medi-vac to the hospital. A Time Magazine photojournalist snapped his picture, and it appeared on the magazine’s cover.
Millard eventually was nursed back to health, and he returned to his job as a corrections officer at the Jackson Correctional Institution in Black River Falls, WI, north of Madison. And he came to Madison to decry the Governor Scott Walker’s plan to strip collective bargaining rights for public employees. “I believe it’s an attack on the freedoms we have as the people of Wisconsin,” Millard told me in an interview.
Corrections will be particularly hit hard by the budget repair bill, and future budgets under Gov. Walker. Millard said there’s talk about removing the protected status for corrections, which would reduce the multiple in retirement from 2% to 1.6%. “Many of our correctional officers are vets going back to the Vietnam War,” Millard said. “These guys are going to have to work until they’re 75.”
Millard believes that the budget will be particularly cruel to veterans. Hospitals and county veteran offices could feel the pain of budget cuts, when the county gets reduced funds and pass on their reductions. And that says nothing of the policy changes, such as the stripping of collective bargaining, “which effects the rights of people around here that have been there for 60, 70 years,” Millard explained. “Collective bargaining is our right to be heard in the workplace. Walker wants to make autonomous decisions without checks and balances. I don’t think enough people have truly read the bill and know what it does.” Millard stressed that the right to negotiate was crucial for good work and living conditions in the prisons, which goes directly to the main causes of riots – bad food, bad medical care, etc. “If everyone was a great employer we wouldn’t need unions,” Millard said. “The employer’s bottom line is money. Unions provide the way for workers to negotiate. You can’t throw away 70 years of history.”
These guys GET IT. And how many brothas (and sistas) are in jail now dealing with that mess? There was a statewide prison strike in Georgia that touched on exactly that, and even the Aryan Brotherhood was united with the black and Latino and Asian prison gangs, knowing that all boats would rise if they were even marginally successful.
It’s all related. It’s all connected. One would have to be half-blind not to realize this essential fact. Disrespect of the workers is connected to disrespect of the imprisoned, no matter what they have done.
I can only hope that these people’s new-found, or latent, now raging consciousness extends to stopping or lowering the instances of senseless police shootings, domestic violence, and other social maladies. Because it should not stop there.