Sandy Baringer, the UC-AFT staffer for Riverside has gone to Wisconsin to support the protests against union bashing and public employees. Here is her report from the frontlines:
“I'm reporting from the teachers' computer lounge at Madison Area Technical College, one block from the Wisconsin Capitol building, where thousands of teachers and public workers are rallying peacefully in the streets, in February in a cold climate, for 6 days going on 7: excuse the caps; I am being emphatic here.
First thing. NO ONE is trying to block the people's access to their Capitol - unlike the Orange County District Attorney attempting to indict UCI students for FELONY CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY for occupying one of their university buildings, and unlike certain UC administrators who direct their campus law enforcement personnel to block student access to university buildings. There are bedrolls around the rotunda, camping chairs, shared food, music, people with laptops. Law enforcement crowd control is very respectul and professional: one door is the designated entrance, and other doors are exit-only, which keeps the population inside with the parameters of fire safety. Signs are allowed inside, but no sticks. A very creative and invigorating collection of signs are taped to the inside walls around the rotunda. Many windows in the Capitol have large signs posted supporting the protest. The Tea Partiers seem to have disappeared. There was snow yesterday, and children of protesters are using posters to sled down the north side of the Capitol lawn. There was a 1 1/2 hour speaker lineup at noon, utilizing a very excellent outdoor sound system under a tarp, plugged into the Capitol building electrical outlets. There will be a lineup of a half dozen musicians with acoustic guitars at the 5pm rally, headlined by Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine.
Second thing. Even though it is THIRTY DEGREES OUTSIDE NOT COUNTING WIND CHILL, there are still THOUSANDS of people here. I cannot estimate its size because it is larger than any UC rally I have ever attended, including the UCLA rally in November 2009, even though the ENTIRE STATE of Wisconsin has a population of approximately 5.7 million people (Los Angeles County has 9.5 million).
Third thing. These protesters are not all college students. Approximately a third to a half of them have gray hair. Judging from the union affiliations on the signs people are holding, approximately half of them are teachers, and they are not afraid to holler and act undignified. MARCH 2 is coming up a week from this Wednesday - that's 9 days from now. I hope our faculty will be outside where they can be SEEN and HEARD.”