History is being made in Wisconsin this week.
No matter where you are, you’ve likely seen it on the news. Tens of thousands of protesters — public employees, teachers and union workers — have been filling the state Capitol in Madison and its grounds as they fight the Republican governor’s proposal to strip them of collective bargaining rights.
The story has taken one astonishing turn after another.
On Tuesday, it was simply that 13,000 people showed up to protest on a weekday. On Wednesday, the legislative hearing on the bill went until 3 in the morning. And the protesters kept coming. On Thursday, 14 Democratic senators fled the state to block a vote on the bill. On Friday, so many teachers were protesting that some districts canceled classes.
On Saturday, 60,000 people came to the Capitol Square, representing both sides of the debate. An estimated 500 police officers were on hand. Welcome to Madison. The protests were spirited and loud but peaceful all week, with only a handful of arrests for disorderly conduct. It stayed that way Saturday, when the governor’s opponents still far outnumbered the governor’s supporters.
We’ve not seen anything like this in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It’s a story of such magnitude that the Green Bay Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV just two weeks ago — also a big story in Wisconsin — has been shoved far into the background, rendered almost an afterthought.
Here’s a look at the protests, set to the music of “14 Senators,” a song written Friday morning by Madison folk singer Ken Lonnquist and performed live on the radio less than an hour later.
And some timeless music perhaps appropriate for the moment.
“We The People,” Allen Toussaint, from Bell single 782, 1969. Available on “What Is Success: The Scepter and Bell Recordings,” a 2007 import CD.
“Eyes On The Prize,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007.
“World In Motion,” Pops Staples with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, from “Peace to the Neigbhorhood,” 1992. It’s out of print but is available digitally.
“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the Chi-Lites, from “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” 1971. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.
“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” the Temptations, from “Greatest Hits II,” 1970. The LP is out of print, but the song is available digitally.
“Fight The Power (Part 1 & 2),” the Isley Brothers, from “The Heat Is On,” 1975. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.