By Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Milwaukee District
Milwaukee, WI – Nearly a year and a half ago, Walker announced his plan to eliminate the right to collective bargaining for public employees and to stop in-state tuition for undocumented students. The response to these attacks were enormous. Mass mobilizations of workers from across the state took over the Wisconsin state capitol, organized protests from Green Bay to Racine, and forced a recall election against Republican Governor Scott Walker and his cronies in the state senate and assembly.
On June 5, voters from across the state of Wisconsin went to their polling places to determine the future of Scott Walker as the governor of the state. People in the state awoke the next morning to find that the movements of working class and oppressed nationality people had been dealt a blow by the billionaire backers of Walker’s anti-union, anti-immigrant agenda. Although the recall push changed the composition of the state senate, corporate dollars overwhelmingly won the state for the Republicans, including Walker’s victory over Democratic moderate Tom Barrett.
The next day, 150 people, undaunted by the defeat, prepared to march against “1% Walker” in downtown Milwaukee to signify the fight is not over. This march was called Keep it in the Streets and unified many of the fighters who had been on the front lines against Walker since the Madison uprising. These included unions representing bus drivers, public school teachers, and teaching assistants, as well as Occupy Milwaukee and anti-war, women’s and immigrant rights organizations. This was a march of the advanced fighters in the battle against Walker and they came, rightfully angry, from all over the state.
After a spirited rally in a downtown park, hearing from each sponsoring organization about their plans to continue forward and learn from the lessons of the recall, protesters took to the streets to march through the downtown banking district and the rest of downtown. Many in the march that came after the rally demonstrated their anger through nonviolent civil disobedience by marching into the streets. When met with violent police repression, they responded bravely and nonviolently, asserting their right to act out against injustice. Those who wished not to risk arrest marched in solidarity on the sidewalk, adding a critical element to the march.
The Milwaukee police responded in a way many of us have not seen in years. Despite the fact that many street demonstrations, even when unpermitted, have been accepted by the community for years, the police chose to crack down with clubs, horses and pepper spray. They brought violence where there was nonviolence. Those who were arrested and those injured by the police in their attack on the people should be wholeheartedly supported and the conclusion of the rally that day showed a great spirit of solidarity by raising hundreds of dollars for those arrested.
The march in the streets of downtown Milwaukee was in itself an important response to the Walker victory. It showed Walker and the billionaires behind him that many are prepared to continue the fight against his anti-worker, anti-woman and racist policies, regardless of the election, and to face police repression with bravery. It showed that many of the youth, concerned about their future as well as the future of others, were willing to put their bodies on the line to fight injustice. We believe those who practiced civil disobedience should be celebrated and supported. This march, and the courage shown by those who attended at every level, was significant and positive for the progressive movement throughout Wisconsin.
In this time, Walker and the right wing are looking to deal further blows to the progressive movement, in an attempt to weaken it for the coming November elections, which could very well result in Right to Work laws and further attacks on Badgercare, Seniorcare and other services important to working families in the state. It is critical that the broad progressive community stay united in public around the issues we care about.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization has taken the position that it will not publicly criticize or condemn others on the left for their actions and encourages others to do the same. Instead, we intend to hold disagreements for discussions internal to our movements, along the line of the Saint Paul Principles set out in the Republican National Convention protests in 2008 and the Chicago Principles in the recent protests against NATO.
The recall elections were by no means the end of the struggle. Working people continue to stand up across the state. In Milwaukee now, workers are on strike at Palermos pizza. These workers, largely Latino/Latina, are fighting for their basic union rights in spite of company repression and threats of ICE raids. A victory for these workers is a blow we can give to the corporate powers that bankroll Walker.
While recognizing our differences, we wish to continue to unite with leaders across the movements to win all that can be won under current conditions and build even better conditions for struggle. We have at hand thousands of new activists who have occupied the state capitol, protested Walker at fundraisers, attended organizing meetings and knocked on doors to fight for working and oppressed people. Many were already organizing against the U.S. wars and occupations, against cuts to tuition and for justice for immigrants. This generation is knowledgeable, experienced and ready to take movements for social and economic justice a step further. We want to continue to have discussions about strategy and tactics and about Walker and his attacks on working families. Further, we want to build relationships, based on mutual respect, for events in the future. Not one person or organization can beat back the attacks; it will take all of us working as a united movement to win.