March 07, 2011

Annual rally is fueled by Walker

If protesters gathering across Wisconsin are simply “college students having a fun party,” as Republican State Sen. Glenn Grothman suggested on MSNBC’s “Last Word” on Tuesday, then UW-Milwaukee certainly threw a party Wednesday afternoon.
The second protest in as many weeks, the noon walk-out was an effort coordinated by several Wisconsin labor and student organizations, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal employees (AFSCME), and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association (MGAA).
The event was part of the annual “All Out For Education Rights!,” a nationwide campaign organized by the SDS, with over 20 chapters, from the University of California to the University of Minnesota, demonstrating “for a university that is for everyone,” according to the SDS website.
The rally culminated in a speech by Interim Chancellor Michael Lovell, calling upon students to become involved in on-campus discussions about the 2011-2013 budget proposals.
The event took on special significance this year because of the ongoing protests against Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposals, and several SDS chapters showed solidarity with Wisconsin in their individual protests.
In his 2011-2013 budget proposals, Walker included cutting UW System funding by about $2.2 billion, essentially cutting it in half, as well as allowing UW-Madison to withdraw from the system entirely.
Mike Gold, UWM student and SDS member, said, “I think [the budget bill] is a catastrophe for basic education,”
Derek Counts, a UWM art history lecturer, says the bill is not just an assault on education at the university level, but for the K-12 system as well.
“Some system of self-sacrifice needs to be put in place, but it is unfair to defund the public sector to fund the private,” Counts said.
Chanting slogans, carrying signs, and banging on makeshift drums, the protesters gathered in Spaights Plaza before marching through the Union and taking to the streets, shutting down traffic surrounding the campus.
The disparate group of protesters included students, teachers, teaching assistants (TAs), municipal employees and community members.
After arriving again in Spaights Plaza, representatives delivered speeches against Walker’s “Trojan horse of corporate control,” as one organizer described it.
Brenda Cardenas, UWM lecturer and Milwaukee’s Poet Laureate, was acerbic as she spoke against the budget proposal’s attack on bargaining rights.
“Workers of Wisconsin unite!” she shouted out from the stage. “We have nothing to lose but our governor!”
Following the speeches, protesters were encouraged to continue the rally inside the Union Concourse, where Lovell addressed the crowd.
Lovell had previously contacted SDS requesting the opportunity to speak to the crowd about the impact Walker’s budget proposal would have on UWM.
Lovell thanked the protesters for respectfully and peacefully representing the university, and encouraged students to attend the next all-campus budget forum on March 9.
“We welcome the governor’s commitment to give us greater flexibility; however, we don’t know what the impact of moving to a different governance system would be on our campus,” Lovell said in an e-mail to students.
Despite the heated discourse, the gathering was peaceful. Protesters took advantage of the Alpha Kappa Psi food stand, serendipitously set up by the fraternity that afternoon to raise funds.
Aaron Levans has only been a member of SDS for a couple weeks, but was happy with the results of their work.
“It was a good surprise that this many people turned out,” Levans said. “We had a lot of people standing with us today.”
Levans was one of the speakers in Spaights Plaza; he said both of his parents have worked in the Milwaukee Public School system for 25 years, and Walker’s proposal was particularly destructive for his family.
Many students were disappointed, however, that the protest did not gather as many demonstrators as the previous rally.
Originally posted HERE