AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to convey
to people the sense and the breadth of the people that are here.
Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke came a few hours before we did
yesterday to the State Capitol with John Hamilton, and he spoke to the
public employees, the labor activists, the students, who have been
filling these hallways for the last 11 days, each night hundreds of
people sleeping overnight.
During the day, the booming sounds of chants
and drums fill the building. So many people are staying here that
protesters have begun building impromptu dining areas, a lending library
and a medic center.
Letís go right now to just the feel of the Capitol here in Madison,
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: My name is Harriet Rowan, and Iím a senior at UW
Madison. Iíve been here since the February 14th rally, and Iíve been
here every night of the sleep-in. Yeah, Iím just a student whoís here in
solidarity with everyone and also concerned about, you know, the future
of our university and for the future for students all over Wisconsin.
MIKE BURKE: Can you take us on a tour of whatís going on inside the
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Of course I can. I can show you everything. Iíve
been here for nine days.
So, weíre walking right now on the ground floor of the Capitol, coming
in the north entrance toward the amazing drum circle thatís been going
on for about nine days, I think. I think today is day number 10, maybe.
The inside of the ground floor rotunda is packed full of people. And on
the first floor, which is one flight up from the ground floor from the
entrances, is also packed with people. And on the second floor, people
are looking down.
Really, the focus is right here, the center of the
ground floor. Itís where most of the energy comes from.
BARBARA CRANE: Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Barbara Crane. Iím the
president of the National Federation of Nurses. We want to stand with
our brothers and sisters for what we consider the genocide of the middle
class of this country, and weíre not going to take it anymore!
"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it
nurse, I know what a code looks like, and a code red is happening at
ground zero in Wisconsin, and itís got to stop now!
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: An injury to one is an injury to all. And I think
that thatís a point that a lot of people are getting out of this, that
people see Wisconsin as like the focal point of where the attack on
unions is starting right now and where it can be stopped. And thatís why
itís so important and so many people are giving us support from out of
state and coming from out of state to support us.
But at the same time,
I mean, 95 percent of the people I talk to are from Wisconsin. So, I
think the claims that theyíre outside agitators are quite a stretch, and
I havenít seen much evidence for that.
MIKE BURKE: How big have been some of the crowds over the past week and
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Iíve heard numbers as big as 100,000. Honestly, I
spent about 23 hours a day inside the Capitol, so I donít really even
see the rallies all that often. But thatís what Iíve been hearing, you
know, between 40,000, then 60,000, then 100,000, so...
MIKE BURKE: What else is on this floor?
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Thereís a lot of stuff on the first floor. Thereís
lots of like legislative offices and stuff like that. As weíre walking,
the walls are still covered in letters from people. And thereís - it says
up on the wall that there are 10,776 messages posted up here.
MIKE BURKE: Who are these messages written to?
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: These messages are written to Governor
from various people and brought here through
Hereís one of the letters, and it says,
"I am a registered Republican,
and I oppose your bill as it is currently written. I would appreciate if
during your daily radio addresses you told the whole story and not the
biased portion you have been emphasizing. From Cathy Connolly of
Right now weíre coming into the hallway that goes around the first floor
rotunda. Letís walk to the right. Ooh, I like this sign a lot.
"Hey, Walker, my UW education: $39,856. My Wisconsin teaching license:
$19,240. Being able to protest your ignorance by sleeping at the
Capitol: priceless. If you wonít participate in democracy, I will."
like that sign.
MIKE BURKE: Now, Iíve seen this little side room. There are several
sleeping bags on the floor. Thereís at least one man in there sleeping
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Yeah.
MIKE BURKE: Can you describe the sleeping arrangements here? How many
people are sleeping every night? Whoís actually taking part in this?
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: The last I heard was two days ago they did a count,
and it was about 400, a little bit more, I think.
Itís hard to tell,
because there are so many hallways and so many different areas. Really,
people just find anywhere they can and put down their stuff. Weíve been
trying to collect like bedding donations, so people can have like mats
underneath them and sleeping bags and pillows and all that stuff.
donít know how long weíre going to be staying, but weíre dedicated to
stay as long as we need to.
MIKE BURKE: Alright, letís head over to the information center.
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Wonderful. So the information station is a - kind of
our motto is,
"got info, need info, share info. Knowledge is power."
the idea of it is that the more people - the more things people know, the
more organized we can be.
In the first two nights, I realized - you know,
on the TV screens up there, sometimes when the Assembly is meeting they
show the Assembly and have it on speakers that are around the Capitol.
And people canít really hear whatís going on.
So, like, every once in
awhile something really important would happen, and no one would know.
And so, that was one of the first things we started doing here was weíd
write it up on this, our official low-tech Twitter. We actually have a
real Twitter now, that we donít use it very often, just for really
important things. But we started this low-tech Twitter over here, which
people thought was pretty funny. Itís just a white board, so we write up
People need to know whatís going on if theyíre going to be
informed and really part - strategically part of the movement and really
trying to help accomplish the goals.
MIKE BURKE: It sounds almost like youíre running a small little town
inside the State House.
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Yeah, thatís what people have been saying. People
really see it as like our own little community. Weíre walking right now
up to the food station in the North Gallery. Originally, the TAA was
getting some food donations upstairs, and then the information station
was getting food donations.
We started getting so much that we really
couldnít handle it all.
UNIDENTIFIED: Weíve had a lot of support from the Madison community,
around the state, as well as around the country. These bagels are
actually donated by an organization in New York. I know the Teamsters
have brought in brats.
Weíve had organizations just sort of showing
their support to everyone in a very human way.
I mean, everybody has to
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: We also have a list of all the places that food has
come from. One of the ones that I think is most interesting, Malawi,
from Haiti, from Cairo, Egypt.
MIKE BURKE: Now, youíre saying that people in Egypt have donated food
for the people here in Madison?
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Yeah, apparently, which is wonderful. I mean, I
think that most people here agree that the people of Egypt really
inspired people here.
You know, thereís this whole issue with equating
the two situations, which I think is a false equation, but thereís no
doubt that we were - that people here have been inspired by that, to
really see that a group of people without any official leadership can
really get together and do something.
And I mean, here, you know,
thereís the different unions, so each - people who are affiliated with the
unions have their own leadership, but thereís really not like one leader
for the movement.
And I think that thatís one of the things that makes
it really cool.
MIKE BURKE: And what keeps you going?
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: Just the people, talking to people and seeing how
amazing everything is and how people are working together.
This is - I
keep saying this is the coolest thing Iíve ever been a part of, and
people continuously tell me the same thing, like, "This is the most
amazing thing Iíve ever been a part of." And people really feel
empowered individually to accomplish things, to do things. They see
something thatís not being done, and they do it.
And thatís really cool.
AMY GOODMAN: Thatís University of Wisconsin student Harriet Rowan taking
our own Democracy Now!ís Mike Burke around the Capitol.
John Nichols, The Nation magazine, seventh generation Wisconsinite, 10
seconds. Whatís happening this weekend?
JOHN NICHOLS: This weekend, youíll see the better part of 100,000 people
in Madison, coming from every corner of the state. And in capitals
across the country, people will rally in solidarity with them, all to
say, "We want economic justice and democracy now."
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks so much, John. Tonight, Friday night, Iíll be
speaking at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the Union Ballroom.
Tomorrow night, Iíll be at the University of Alberta in Canada, in
Edmonton, speaking at the TELUS Centre.
You can go to our website at
democracynow.org for more details.