Despite frigid temperatures in Madison and a fresh coating of snow from overnight, thousands again marched around the State Capitol building Saturday in protest of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
Competing pro-union rallies took place on opposite sides of the Capitol Square, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on one end and the Wisconsin Wave movement set up on the other.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore joined the Wisconsin Wave event as a surprise speaker. Moore says he decided to come to Madison early Saturday morning, after he finished typing up a blog post and felt the message was better delivered in person.
Moore thanked those who have been protesting in recent weeks for all of their work, and urged them to keep up the fight against the Governor’s efforts to strip most collective bargaining rights away from public sector workers. He says Wisconsin has “aroused a sleeping giant known as the working people” and it’s the start of a movement he believes will stretch across the nation.
Moore railed against claims that the collective bargaining changes are needed because Wisconsin is broke, calling it one of the three biggest lies of the past decade. He noted the other two are that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the Green Bay Packers needed Brett Favre to win a Super Bowl.
Moore also showed his admiration for the 14 Democratic Senators who left the state to prevent a vote on the bill. He says they will go down in labor history for their profound action and their courage will not be forgotten.
Others addressing today’s rally included Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), state Representative Kelda Roys (D-Madison), and the Madison mayoral candidates. Musicians Ryan Bingham and Michelle Shocked also performed.
This was the third straight weekend that massive crowds converged on the downtown area to protest, although estimates from the Capitol Police put the size of Saturday’s demonstration at much smaller numbers than in recent weeks. The state says the crowd peaked at approximately 12,000 people, compared to estimates of up to 100,000 just last weekend.