2011-05-06 "Wisconsin-Style Occupation Planned in California" by Allison Kilkenny from "The Nation" weekly newsmagazine
The Wisconsin backlash against Gov. Walker’s union-busting crusade is widely seen as some of the most effective protests against austerity partly because activists occupied the state Capitol and refused to leave. These acts of physical resistance are truly the last refuge of the liberal class, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges. In fact, he says liberals have a “moral imperative” to perform them.
"[I]f we don’t begin to physically defend the civil society, all resistance will be ceded to very proto-fascist movements such as the Tea Party that celebrate the gun culture, the language of violence, seek scapegoats for their misery.”
In other words, it’s not enough to sign on-line petitions. The only acts that still strike fear in the hearts of the wealthy and powerful are mass acts in which bodies fill rotundas and the halls of power.
Following the Wisconsin tradition of meaningful protest, the California Teachers Association is planning a weeklong “State of Emergency” campaign designed to focus on budget cuts in schools and the need to avoid further reductions to spending.
CTA President David Sanchez told delegates to the state Democratic Party convention last weekend that protesters will stage "daily sit-ins" inside the Capitol.
State of Emergency hopes to convince legislators to pass a state budget with tax extensions estimated to generate some $12 billion for the state and local governments, and also to change the tax structure in order to support stable funding for public education.
In the last three years, California school funding has been cut by $20 billion.
Long-time peace activist Cindy Sheehan has also pledged to occupy the Capitol in an attempt to obtain a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, though Sheehan’s goals extend far beyond the education cuts and apply to austerity, in general.
"The savage austerity measures proposed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown are an attack on the vulnerable people of this state, and no amount of partisan politicking can hide that fact," she said.
Sheehan has already braced herself for the possibility of arrest.
"I'm willing to be arrested, if that's what it's going to take," she said. "I want to go through the proper channels to request a meeting with Gov. Brown in the establishment way, but I'm willing to also try in a non-establishment way."
In Ohio, protesters continue to resist Gov. Kasich’s union assault. While thousands gathered outside the Statehouse yesterday to demand job creation, a separate protest was held to oppose Senate Bill 5, a Republican measure signed by Kasich that limits collective bargaining for public employees.
Thousands of citizens have descended on the Statehouse in the past few months to protest Senate Bill 5, a reality that inspired this very strange response from the governor: “If they’re out here protesting, it makes for good news I guess,” he said.
During another Ohio protest yesterday in Bexley, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman joined officials from several city suburbs to decry legislators’ plans to repeal the Ohio estate tax.
Only 7.5 percent of Ohioans are wealthy enough to pay the tax, so Coleman views the repeal as a giveaway to the rich.
"They're cutting taxes for the rich, while at the same time, they're cutting services to ordinary people," Coleman said. "Residents should be outraged over this immoral act."
Columbus collects about $9 million per year in taxes from the estates of residents, a small portion of the city's $705 million general-fund budget.
Bexley collects an average of $1.7 million per year, about the cost for all of its fire protection or half the cost of running the police department, said Councilman Ben Kessler.
"This is a gigantic impact on the city of Bexley's income," he said.