[COMM-ORG] Scare tactics regarding Madison-style democratic protests (Please post to list)

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Apr 9 18:27:43 CDT 2011

 [ed:  thanks to John and Amy for the replies.]

From: "John M. Beam" <John_Beam at verizon.net>

Hello Alison,

As someone who was born, if not bred, in Yakima, let me wish you good
luck and all best wishes on y'all's budget fight.

I am sure that folks with "boots on the ground" experience in Madison
will provide the counterfactual on how they cared for their capitol, but
I think research shows that you never recover all the "ears" you lose
because of a propagandistic big lie.  I also think the issue, while
troubling, is a sideshow.  Your demonstrations either will or will not
trash the building, regardless of the pol's concern.

I feel strongly that the more central issue is exploring is whether
replicating the Madison experience moves your agenda.  What is the power
analysis that suggests it should work on your targeted policy makers. 
(You might want to talk to folks who camped out in New York State
Capitol in Albany last week.)

It is important to remember that "Madison" had its context and
missions.  While I use the plural, one of its important missions was to
keep public attention focused on a parallel strategy, the boycott of the
quorum by the Democrat legislators, that was actually rooted in
structural authority of which they were taking advantage.  When the
Republicans manipulated their structural prerogatives, the game moved
on...back to the streets and into the courts, another locus of
structural power.

As much as I believe morally in speaking truth to power, we are in a
period where the targets are less vulnerable to shame and embarrassment
than they were a generation ago.  Speaking truth to power might invoke
moral authority, but I strongly believe we need to do more hard nosed
power analyses that help us decide when moral authority by itself
represents a form of power that can move our agenda by itself.


John M. Beam
Pumphouse Projects
Brooklyn NY


Amy Mondloch <amy at grassrootsleadershipcollege.org>
Thu, 7 Apr 2011 15:05:25 -0500
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu

Hi all

The protests in Wisconsin have been "midwest polite."  I think it's the
only place that I've ever heard people chanting "thank you" and "let us
in, please."  I would speculate that there are a number of reasons for
that.  Dane county has more nonprofits per capita than any other area of
the country.  Rallies are a part of the culture.  The police are largely
on our side.  Many of the protesters are old enough to remember what
happened here in the 1960's and don't want to repeat those tragedies. 
We have a beautiful capitol that no one wanted to damage. They also
remained peaceful because of a lot of nonviolence training that was
coordinated by the Grassroots Leadership College.  By the end of the
occupation we had more than 20 people trained to lead "Prepared and
Peaceful" and we'd had trained thousands.

I am attaching that curriculum here [ed:  attachments get stripped out
of list messages so please use the GLC website].  I hope that those of
you organizing in other states and countries will tweak it, make it your
own, use it.  It can also be found on our website
www.grassrootsleadershipcollege.org.  Let me know how it works for you
and what upgrades you make to it.

One thing I found in Wisconsin during the occupation, was that very few
people had made any preparations for being arrested prior to receiving
the 'Prepared and Peaceful' training.  I would guess that the same is
probably true in other states and not every place will be as lucky as
Wisconsin has been with the police.  Another thing I found was that some
folks were quick to respond to the offer of nonviolence training with
"I'm not going to be violent" or the equivalent without really thinking
about it.  So, it's important to have trainers out there just having
conversations with people getting them thinking about the possibilities.


On 4/6/2011 8:42 AM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
>  [ed: please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Alison's
> query. A bit from me below.]
> From: "A. Eisinger" <alison.eisinger at gmail.com>
> Dear Comm-Org-ers:
> I would love to hear list member's thoughts -- and get solid information
> from folks in Wisconsin -- about the following example of how elected
> officials are being told to fear peaceful small-d democratic protests.
> The context:
> Here in Washington State, with a 5.4 billion budget deficit and a deeply
> divided legislature heading for another "all cuts" budget, we are
> preparing for a busy week in our state  Capitol, Olympia.   Labor,
> community, education, health care, housing, and other groups have been
> organizing for weeks to hold four days of demonstrations in and around
> the Capitol, culminating in a large rally on Friday, April 8th at noon. 
> They are urging legislators to "take a balanced approach" - closing tax
> loopholes and building a budget that includes revenue ( no small task in
> a state without income tax, where last fall the voters just passed an
> initiative requiring 2/3 of the Legislature to approve any new taxes). 
> To add to the excitement, today the House of Representatives is due to
> release its version of the budget, which is sure to include devastating
> cuts to public services.
> Here's the Madison connection:
> This weekend I ran into a long-serving and well-respected member of the
> state House of Representatives.  We chatted about the upcoming week, and
> she said with great concern that she and her colleagues had all been
> informed by a senior Legislative staff person that protesters in
> Madison, Wisconsin "had done 8 million dollars' worth of damage to the
> state capitol," and that she was very concerned about what the expected
> 9,000 (you read that right) people coming to Olympia would do.   I could
> hardly believe my ears.  A friend who was with me and had just returned
> from a visit to Madison told the Representative of how proudly her hosts
> had shown her the clean, unmarked marble walls where blue painter's tape
> had been used to hang messages.  I mentioned the extensive coverage of
> how demonstrators and Capitol building staff  had communicated to ensure
> public safety and protection of public property while in the Capitol. 
> And yet, she was shaking her head, anticipating mayhem and damage.
> This may seem trivial, but the conversation left me very troubled. 
> Deliberate or not, this sort of warning inevitably makes elected
> officials afraid of the general public. I fear it will lead to escalated
> anxiety and tension when demonstrators do head to the Capitol, which
> they will, and that is never a good recipe.
> I understand that there are people who have clear information debunking
> these 'estimates' of damage in Madison, and I'd love to have something
> to send to this legislator.    I'd also like to hear anyone's thoughts
> about this as we see organizing around state legislative issues
> "post-Madison."
> Regards,
> Alison Eisinger
> Seattle, WA
> [ed:  here is a news report that summarizes many of the other news
> reports here in relation to this question
> http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/UPDATE_Judge_Orders_Wisconsin_Capitol_Open_To_General_Public.html
> .  It may also be worth them contacting legislators here to learn their
> perspectives.  And here is an article about the capitol police chief 
> http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/article_09879cd2-58a7-11e0-9c08-001cc4c002e0.html
> .]
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