Today’s protests were the largest yet—the police estimate was 70,000. Not a single arrest. Tea Party people turned up in… well, force would be too strong a word—500 maybe— and looked, to be honest, a bit bewildered. I did wonder for a moment whether WEAC had paid a bunch of out-of-work actors to make the tea party look stupid and lift our spirits, but, no, I think they were genuine and doing it themselves. Only 2 doors of the Capitol were open (the others were clear for emergency vehicles, which I was a bit alarmed hadn’t already been done yesterday). I’ve no sense of the numbers, but there are 5000 in the Capitol at any given time, and a march of protesters about 15-20 people wide and pretty densely packed is surrounding the building walking round the square.
State Street was completely packed for several blocks too. The mood was pretty jovial and optimistic (but it is not clear what that optimism is grounded in). There’s no new news today, but yesterday AFSCME and WEAC offered to accept the benefit cuts in return for the removal of the union busting provisions and Walker dismissed it out of hand, making vivid what this is all about. The Senators are still in Illinois (but some seem to have migrated somewhere more palatable than Rockford and who can blame them. My guess is that the winter storm coming tomorrow will make for a quiet day. Insofar as I can judge the mood, my sense is that teachers in Madison want to return to work Monday (there’s a mass union meeting at 2 on Sunday to decide this) and to get the Assembly Democrats to ensure that no real legislative action happens before 4.30 when large scale action can begin. Fuller coverage in the Journal Sentinel.
For those who have asked: at present not a single Democrat is wavering, and it looks unlikely that any will. There were initial worries in the Assembly, but the causus solidified pretty fast, and will almost certainly hold. People have, rightly, given them a lot of credit.
A word about the police. I’ve been brutally beaten and arrested by cops on two continents during activities in support of strikes, and have been at many, many more demonstrations and protests of this scale or larger, though not for a long time (if you watch the video, I was much fatter then, and have no memory at all of the red baseball cap I seem to have had on prior to the arrest). Bad things are always possible. But in my experience usually (as in both my cases) violence depends on incompetent or ill-willed policing (or, more rarely, the determination of agent-provocateurs or irresponsible buggers to provoke it). Often, there is considerable tension between the police and demonstrators especially when (as this week) neither side was really ready for what was going to happen. These protests have been good-natured and fun, but still it is striking how good the policing has been—a lot of cops visibly present, but low key and friendly, determined not to play any role in raising the temperature. All the more remarkable for the fact that neither the protesters (with a few exceptions) nor the cops (with even fewer) have experienced things like this before, and still weren’t anticipating anything like it 4 days ago. Several lefties of my acquaintance (including myself) have made a point of friendly contact with cops, and simply telling them how impressive it has been.
Rallies are scheduled tomorrow, but a major winter storm may make them less impressive than they’ve been. The Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday and my guess is that 5 pm first on Monday, then on Tuesday. will be the gathering times for major action. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town on Monday, but will get my family to fill me in if you want further reports.