photo courtesy Dave Dayen

MADISON, WI (FDL) – Thousands of people have turned out in Madison today to protest the budget repair bill, which passed the State Assembly in a wildcat vote Thursday night. Members of several unions, most prominently the Plumbers and Steamfitters union of Madison and Milwaukee, were out in force. Madison schools are closed today, so many teachers and students are out as well. And while labor has brought numbers, the students really kicked this all off and still are the nominal leaders of this movement. The local teaching assistant’s association at UW-Madison has done a lot of the ground-level organizing work as well. It’s odd yet inspiring to see students walking and leading the crowd in union chants.

Some bagpipers from the Firefighter’s union led the crowd up to 10 Doty St., site of that now-infamous Koch Brothers lobby shop. Thousands packed the street, which was temporarily closed off to cards, for the noontime rally. The lobbyists have apparently begun the work of taking the Koch name off the door.

This is just the beginning of two days of action in Madison. The number that organizers and plugged-in folks are throwing around is 100,000 for the protest and concert tomorrow. The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, a native Wisconsinite, will emcee the event, and I heard an unconfirmed report that Steve Earle will be playing. In addition to that, nationwide rallies are happening across the country. John Nichols from The Nation made a prediction this afternoon – he believes that 1 million people will be out in solidarity with Wisconsin public employees tomorrow. You can find the rally near you here.

Now, at 4:00 CT, apparently law enforcement at the Capitol will begin to restrict the upper floors of the Rotunda to protesters. This is the beginning of a movement to shut down the Capitol that will probably happen tomorrow night. With the professional police association opposed to the restriction and planning to sleep in the Capitol tonight, I don’t know if this will actually come off. But it should be interesting.

This is the one city in America right now where some stranger can come up to you and say, “I hear talk of a general strike.”

…this last pic is for Atrios: