My tooth just shot lava into my mouth.
Obviously, Wisconsin Democrats knew these rules, knew how the Republicans would handle it. So nothing to lose by playing the good guy here.
A Statement on the Events of March 9th
“A Stain on Democracy”
The Autonomous Solidarity Organization was officially formed on Tuesday March 8th, 2011. The roots of our organization date back to the early days of the original occupation of the Capitol. The bulk of our core membership were members of the drum circle and “people's microphone” which kept spirits high and allowed the voice of the public to be heard in the rotunda for the 18 days of the occupation. We worked in concert with unions, the Capitol staff, and the general public as these connections became available. We made every effort to maintain peace and order during the repeated provocations we were faced with. These roles were revisited on the night of March 9th. During the post-occupation period (after March 3rd) we decided to formally organize in order to continue the fight which we had already dedicated weeks of our life to. Our efforts, and our reach, will be much broader than the fight against SB 11 but for now that is a moot point.
To begin discussing the events on March 9th it is useful to begin by examining the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law (State Statute 19.84):
“Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.”
At around 4:00 pm, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald announced that a conference committee on the Budget Repair Bill would meet at 6:00pm. This minimal compliance with our state's laws is the continuance of a disturbing trend we have seen from the Wisconsin Republicans. As stated in the Open Meetings Law, a 24 hour notice is required unless such notice is impossible or impractical. Assembly Speaker Fitzgerald has certainly not provided any argument as to why a 24 hour notice was impractical or impossible. There is no rational, intellectually honest argument behind such a claim.
Immediately members of the ASO and other groups involved in fighting this bill put out a call for the general public to get to the Capitol building as quickly as possible. At this point, access to the building was limited to only two entrances (King St. and North Hamilton St.). I specifically state this because the public entrances are constantly changed. Between 5:30 and 6:00pm, only one of these two entrances was open. Which entrance was open was periodically changed. Again, there is no rational, intellectually honest reason for doing this. It succeeded in slowing the pace at which the general public entered the building.
Despite the fact that Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca has stated that he received only the Legislative Financial Bureau memo on the new bill, the conference committee quickly approved the amended version of SB-11 and within minutes the Senate passed it. Before the Senate was even out of session, the building was locked down. No public hearings were held. Over the next several hours, there were several large breaches of the Capitol building security. Eventually the police largely stood down and the public began to flood into the building. In the past the DOA had clearly demonstrated its ability to lock the building down like a militarized zone. Even in the few days preceding March 9th, public access was severely limited. In the past, the Governors supporters were brought into the building through underground tunnels while a Democratic Assemblymen was literally tackled to the ground while trying to gain access to his own office. Members of ASO dressed in suits were offered quick passage through security while others were prevented access on March 8th. It is an interesting point that security measures were severely relaxed on the evening of March 9th.
While the massive flood of the general public into the building created a hectic scene, at no point did the crowd become violent. For a period there were no sound amplification systems in the building, which we had previously used during the original occupation to maintain order and peace. Eventually megaphones were brought in and members of ASO immediately began using them to urge the crowd to remain peaceful. It was merely a precaution that we have always taken. Despite the justifiable anger of the crowd, we have yet to resort to violence even in times where there was no control at all. Despite all of the provocations, manipulations, despite the DOA's violation of the state constitution and failure to comply with court orders, we have remained peaceful.
Eventually, after discussions with Chief Tubbs of the Capitol Police, the majority of the public left the building. All but a few members of the ASO have left the building. The assembly will vote on the new version of the bill today, March 10th at 11am. If this occurs it will be an unspeakable crime against our democracy. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have spent weeks promoting the provisions of the Budget Repair Bill as necessary to close the budget deficit. There was never a rational, intellectually honest argument that stripping collective bargaining from public employees, that putting an unelected official in direct control of Badgercare and Medicaid, that allowing no-bid sale of power plants have anything to do with balancing the budget. However it has now been made even clearer. Explicitly financial portions of the bill were split into a separate bill and they are attempting to pass these provisions into law.
In the Legislative Financial Bureau's memo on modifications to SB 11, page 16, there is a provision titled “Discharge of State Employees.” It states that under current law, “the Governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent threat of a disaster exists.” Remember that the Wisconsin Republicans have shown a disturbing penchant for complying with existing law in the most limited sense. In the event of a Governor declaring a state of emergency, the new SB 11 would allow an appointing authority to discharge any employee who fails to “(a) report to work for any three days during the state of emergency, (b) participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit- down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government.” There is a clear coordination between the language used to vilify those exercising their 1st amendment rights and the language used to activate this provision. The Republicans very clearly are interested in giving Governor Walker the ability to wield unreasonable, unprecedented power.
The writing is on the wall. Every day we see more of their intentions and every day our resolve only grows stronger. As always, we will respond appropriately, peacefully, and effectively in Autonomous Solidarity.
Thomas M Bird
Autonomous Solidarity Organization
GET. POLITICAL. PARTIES. OUT. OF. THIS.
WILL. YOU. NEVER. LEARN?