MADISON, WI (FDL) – In what has been billed the largest rally in the history of Madison, over 100,000 people packed the Capitol Square for a “Rally for Workers’ Rights” to protest the budget repair bill and the proposed stripping of collective bargaining rights from public employees. Madison Police told AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale that they estimated the crowd at 100,000 30 minutes before the 3pm rally. As Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who graced the stage, said, it’s 40% of the March on Washington, which he attended.
Here’s Peter Yarrow leading the crowd in a song.
Yarrow told me before going on stage that he was proud to see the spirit of the past resuscitated. “If they persist, they will prevail,” he said.
The peaceful crowd spanned age ranges, comprised of public and private workers, union and non-union, high school and retired. And it included Madison East High School’s Bradley Whitford, also known as White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman of The West Wing. He told the assembled, among other things, that “Wisconsin is a stubborn constituency, we fish through ice!” Here’s some of him speaking.
Also representing AFTRA and the Screen Actor’s Guild were Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210) and soap opera actor Robert Newman of Guiding Light. But most of the speakers were Wisconsinites, union members and others opposed to the bill. The Episcopal bishop of Milwaukee, leading a group of faith leaders, said that, as Jesus helped the blind to see, “we must help Gov. Walker to see” the right path on the bill.
There’s a parallel rally continuing inside the Capitol, as the masses are outside. Lines to get into the Capitol are around the block. There’s a live stream from inside the Capitol, put on by the AFL-CIO.
With the snow falling consistently, organizers had to shovel the stage between acts. The snow also fell on a chair set up on the stage, reserved for Gov. Scott Walker. He didn’t show up to claim it.
My pics aren’t coming off my Blackberry (cell networks are a bit of a problem today), so I’ll get them up later.
UPDATE: Madison Police confirms that the crowd is between 70-100K, and that there have been no arrests today. Keep in mind that there’s a snowstorm outside.