We are now into Day 5 of protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol over Governor Walker’s Emergency Budget Repair Bill. I made clear in my last post what my thoughts are on the matter, so I won’t reiterate them here, however I would like to speak about the general tone and tenor of the protests.
Having been up at the capitol for the last few days, I am absolutely amazed at the difference between what is going on here compared to other protests around the world. Only in America can we have 30,000 unarmed citizens take over the seat of power for days, effectively an occupying force shutting down the legislative process, and we have no news of violence or rioting. In fact, the last time I checked, only 9 people have even been arrested, mostly for minor charges. The protesters are sending messages of loving their state, schools, and communities, and while they hate the bill and worry tremendously about its effects on their lives, the overall mood is positive and empowering.
Let’s compare this to the protests in the Arab world. This week, in Libya, 30 protesters were killed while asking for the removal of their country’s leader. In Bahrain today, police forces opened fire on the protesting crowd, killing 5 and wounding 50 others. Egypt has had over 350 deaths and thousands injured the past few weeks from protesters clashing with security forces, and often turning on their fellow citizens and each other.
I know that it’s American Government 101, but I have never been more proud of and more grateful for our freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly. However, we need to ensure that these large protests REMAIN peaceful. Signs such as those pointed out by UW professor Ann Althouse, will not help the protesters’ cause, and only dilutes the message we are trying to send. Governor Walker is NOT Mubarak, he is NOT a dictator, and he certainly is NOT Hitler. I for one, am extremely happy that he isn’t, because if he was, the capitol would not be accessible to the people, we wouldn’t be allowed to protest, and people would be injured or dead.
Tomorrow, people associated with state and national Tea Party groups are going to descend on Madison in support of the Governor and to try to counter the protesters. I will be on one side of the protests, and I am sure that my blog partner will be on the other. At the end of the day, I plan on getting a beer with him, and continuing on as great friends. I am urging all of my friends who have spent days occupying the Capitol, and all of those there, to keep the rhetoric positive and constructive. Shout them down and drown them out if you want to, but please allow the counter-protesters to have the presence and safety that you have enjoyed, and that we all have a right to in this democracy. They are also our family members, our neighbors, and our friends.
Brandon Williams said yesterday, and I agree, the first group to become violent will have lost. Keep up the struggle, but please, also keep the moral high ground. Our schools, communities, our democracy, and the people of Wisconsin deserve at least that.