THE ISTHMUS: Wisconsin Wave organizes protest at WMC convention

February 23, 2011
Joe Tarr

A large protest Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol broadened its anger beyond Gov. Scott Walker to corporate interests that have supported him.

The protest -- spearheaded by Wisconsin Wave and Defend Wisconsin -- used the "Business Day in Madison 2011" conference held by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce at Monona Terrace as a chance to highlight the interests backing Walker. Both Walker and US Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) were scheduled to speak at the conference.

Starting at the Capitol at 2 p.m., the crowd marched to the terrace yelling chants, and then back again. Carl Silverman of Madison carried a sign that read: "Boycott Walkers' donors; Follow his $ at"

Silverman explained the business interests "he gets a lot of support from big business… which is pleased to have big tax breaks for corporations and stick it to the working people."

Silverman said he is upset that public unions have offered concessions to Walker because workers shouldn't have to bear the burden of balancing the budget.

While he supported the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's efforts to publicize Walker's financial backing, he was skeptical it would do much good. "The hope is enough people will boycott the companies," Silverman says. "I have to confess, I don't know how likely it is to make a dent. But it's a hope."

Ben Manski, an organizer of the Wave campaign, says going after Walker's backers is essential for change: "It's the power behind the throne," he said. "The real Capitol of Wisconsin is down the street at the WMC headquaters."

"It's really important that the leaders of this austerity agenda are called to account," Manski added.

The Wisconsin Wave campaign was in the works before these protests, and is using the occasion to draw attention to corporate influence on campaigns and democracy, Manski says. "This is going to be a long struggle that will define Wisconsin for generations."

Attorney Kim Grimmer wasn't there specifically for the protest against the WMC, but he was protesting in general, and he couldn't pass up an opportunity to rant when he saw an open megaphone.

Grimmer drew attention to the prank phone call a reporter made to Gov. Scott Walker pretending to be millionaire David Koch, and caught the governor with his guard down. Grimmer urged the crowd to read the transcript of the call and said the most disturbing part was when Walker says he'd considered planting "troublemakers" into the protests.

"This really pisses me off," Grimmer said later. "The fact that he would carefully consider sending in troublemakers to cause a disruption when there are young kids, elderly, people in wheel chairs here."