Hundreds of Wisconsinites gathered outside the capitol building in a makeshift tent city with the purpose of bearing witness to Republican’s reckless action to crush education, health care and programs for senior citizens. Nicknamed “Walkerville” by a local activist – a reference to the tent cities created by Hoover’s reckless actions during the Great Depression – those gathered are determined to remind Governor Walker that they will not remain silent while he makes bad choices for Wisconsin.
Organizers have united around opposition to Walker’s extreme budget, including:
- Cutting public education by $824 million while funneling $35 million to Milwaukee private schools
- Putting higher education out of reach for more students by cutting $250 million from the UW system
- Attacking low and moderate income households with more than $50 million in tax increases and cutting more than $500 million in Medicaid funding
- All the while, giving corporations and the wealthy more than $200 million in tax cuts
“As Wisconsinites, we cannot standby in silence while our friends, family and neighbors suffer at the hand of Governor Walker’s bad choices for our state,” explained Dian Palmer, a public health nurse from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I am here today because what I have heard from Governor Walker does not represent the Wisconsin that I believe in or that my fellow Wisconsinites believe in. And I am here to bear witness and ensure that our leaders do right by education, health care and programs for senior citizens.”
While Wisconsin Republicans have signaled they will employ any means necessary to pass reckless legislation, protesters have made it clear they will continue to gather and hold leaders accountable.
“At the core of our democracy is the notion that elected leaders should act on the will of the people, not on the will of corporate interests,” started Peter Rickman, a graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But when our democracy is under assault, as Wisconsinites and as Americans we have a responsibility to stand up and say, ‘no more.”
Gathered outside the capitol are teachers, nurses, truck drivers, students and community members from across the state. Countless participants have promised to remain at the site twenty-four hours per day while budget legislation is discussed.
“Let’s be clear: Walker’s bad choices have consequences – serious consequences for our communities, our children, health care programs and senior citizens,” explained Palmer. “While some Republicans would prefer we sleep through their reckless actions, we have made a decision to stand guard outside the capitol while they debate the future of our state.”
The Walkerville organizers say the governor’s budget hurts working people and the poor while rewarding corporations with tax breaks. Walkerville volunteer Harriet Rowan says the purpose of the tent city is more than just a protest.
“It’s not just a negative, it’s not just we’re against this budget. We’re for a fair and just budget.”
The budget is expected to be debated by the full Legislature soon, and the tent city occupants expect their numbers to swell into the thousands this weekend.
Republicans supporting Walker’s budget say it will eliminate the state deficit and create jobs. Opponents say it gives tax breaks to corporations while eliminating them for the poor, guts education and ends workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Those sleeping on the sidewalks in the tent city want to send a message to lawmakers about the kind of budget they believe Wisconsin residents deserve, Rowan says.
“That treats people well, doesn’t cut services for those that are disadvantaged and give tax breaks to corporations.”
Walkerville’s temporary residents say they plan to stay in the tent city through June 20.