Thousands of protesters massed at the Capitol on Saturday in an effort to show that outrage over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposals is not dead, three months after he unveiled his plan to curtail collective bargaining rights for public workers.
On a chilly and drizzly May day, a crowd gathered on the Capitol lawn and pooled out into State Street, listening to speakers urge them to keep up the fight against Walker’s policies.
“We have to reclaim our moral outrage, our sense of indignation,” Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, said to cheers from the crowd. “We have to keep the pressure on and let them hear us.”
The “Fight Is Not Over” rally, organized by We Are Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wave, did not swell to the size of some of the weekend protests in February and March, when tens of thousands of people gathered. The Madison Police Department estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people attended Saturday’s rally.
But the protest showed emotion is still high over Walker’s plan to limit collective bargaining rights, even though he signed the bill into law in early March. It has not yet been implemented because of court challenges.
Walker says the bill will help him fix Wisconsin’s budget shortfall and ensure future budgets are balanced.
Jim Lemens, a construction steamfitter from Monona, carried a sign that said, “I’m still here because it’s still a bad bill.”
“I think it’s important to just show people we’re not giving up,” he said, acknowledging that the bill will likely be enacted eventually.
Protesters are now focusing much of their passion on recall elections against members of the state Legislature and, eventually, Walker.
Scott Milheiser, a member of United Steel Workers and his wife, Nancy Schreiber-Milheiser, a special education teacher, drove from Fremont for the rally. They are hoping a recall election against their state senator, Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, will be successful.
“We’re going to take Luther down,” Milheiser said. “Luther supported this budget. That’s what this is all about, getting our voices back.”
Olsen is one of six Senate Republicans likely facing recall. Three Democrats may also face recall elections from constituents who are angry over their decision to leave the state for weeks as they tried to block Walker’s collective bargaining bill.
Besides Mitchell, some of the speakers at the event included former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, Sarah Lloyd of Family Farm Defenders, Alex Hanna of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association, and Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.