FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Scott Walker Comes to Riverwest

At 11:40AM on Friday August 26 Fratney Street seemed as unremarkable as ever as I walked north towards the Art Bar on Burleigh Street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.  The only thing out of the ordinary was the line of school buses blocking the view of Messmer Prep and a well made-up Suit handing out water to the few passers by.  What proceeded to unfold over the next 3 hours exemplified to me the strengths of Riverwest.  This day we lived our ideals as Scotty Walker came to the neighborhood.

The Governor came to Milwaukee to showcase how the public can subsidize private and religious schools: the much ballyhooed Milwaukee School Voucher Program, the nation’s largest which has recently been expanded to Racine and will now not solely be given to low income households.  Voucher plans, the brain child of right wing economist Milton Friedman, give parents public monies to spend at private schools in an effort to create more competition in the education “marketplace”.  Friedman and his follower Walker worship all that is the “free market” and see the plan as a way to liberate education from pesky things like school boards (political democracy), unions (economic democracy) and well paid teachers and staff with their fancy “Cadillac health plans” and exotic pensions.

Riverwesterners in the hundreds greeted Scott Walker with the most combative and festive demonstration I have seen since the beginning of resistance to Walker’s plan to bust unions, slash education, cut transportation budgets and reduce funding for the poor and elderly.  It’s no mistake that militancy was high as Walker entered what could arguably be the most progressive neighborhood in the state.  Riverwest has a long bohemian tradition and during the large protests in Madison a group of local workers and students actually walked the 90 miles to Madison from the neighborhood.

The demonstration began as a normal picket for at least a half an hour but swelled to large rambunctious gaggle that would not be easily bullied by the cops who told them to get off the public side walk.  The crowd politely, yet firmly, said no and the cops gave up that folly.  The next moment of farce that had many rolling in laughter was the belligerence of Brother Bob (the President, CEO and Principal of Messmer Prep-he seems to like titles) who baited the crowd with bets about public funding of the school and with taunts of “God hates you”.  He actually amped up the group and by 1PM or so the demonstration had picked up the volume as numerous neighbors began to unfurl banners with slogans in support of public education and jobs as well as blasting music out of their windows.  One house in particular, owned by a member of the MTEA (the local Teacher’s union) that was strategically placed on the alley near the entrance to the parking lot, showed the colors of the movement in spades with numerous signs and an ample sound system serenading us with Billy Bragg and the Dropkick Murphy’s.

When Walker arrived the crowd was really primed and the hundreds swiftly rallied to try and block the alley with loud chants of “shame, shame, shame” (the slogan that Democratic State Assembly members used as the Republicans jammed through the collective bargaining law in a Special Session of the legislature).

We then set up camp in the alley as Walker read Dr Suess to the students inside.  At this moment the cops decided they needed to intimidate the crowd and busted into the union members yard and randomly arrested a local trade unionist.  The arrest got the crowd apoplectic with many militantly demanding a warrant and questioning the reasoning behind the invasion of property and random arrest.  Camera phones and video cameras en masse were rolling as the crowd was having none of the bullying of the MPD.  After the cops hauled the activist away the crowd quickly passed the number of the police station and Alderman’s office to protest the unjust arrest.  He was quickly released with a ticket.

The action of the day then turned to the alley where Walker was to exit which turned tenser as the crowd saw the surliness of the police and wanted to show them that this was our neighborhood and we would not be easily cowed.  As we waited for Walker to leave chants of “recall Walker”, “banks got bailouts and the people got sold out” and a crowd favorite, “Milwaukee cops, do what’s right and put away your guns and join our fight” reverberated down the alley as more and more neighbors came out with water and snacks for the crowd in acts of solidarity.  The police had blocked the alley but the homeowner welcomed the crowd through her house and yard which incensed the police even more.

Real street theatre was unfolding as humorous stories were bandied about and the crowd grew strength as a result of their confrontation with the police. When Walker finally emerged from the building the crowd was at a fever pitch and he was visibly smirking as we greeted him with boos and groans.

As the event broke up the police once again targeted a demonstrator, a member of the Workers World socialist group, on a phony assault charge (the police said he had tried to trip a cop in the back yard during the first arrest-all which is on tape and clearly did not happen) which sent a number of people down to the local police station to protest the intimidation of the movement.  In the police car one of the cops asked the activist if he still lived in Detroit; showing that the FBI and the MPD may very well be spying on its own citizens.

Although the Democrats and labor tops have successfully squandered tens of millions on electoral tactics as opposed to organizing rank and file members, the spirit of active resistance was seen in Wisconsin this day.  There is no doubt that anyone at this demonstration could feel the depths of the real social movement that has arisen since the attacks began in February.  The demonstration and street action was not an isolated group of agitators.  It was neighborhood people who almost to a person knew each other and gained strength through the militancy and conviction of their neighbors-a proud day to say “I live in Riverwest”.

Christopher Fons is a Social Studies teacher in Milwaukee and a member of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association (MTEA). He can be reached at fonsca@gmail.com

Photo by Christopher Fons.

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
David Yearsley
Bogart Weather
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail