Hundreds of Wisconsinites lined Madison's Capitol Square Saturday to welcome bikers from all over the Midwest and to protest Governor Scott Walker's attack on Wisconsin unions. Just when Walker thought he had memorized all the chants and signs, Wisconsinites revved it up a notch.
Every kind of bike, from Harley-Davidsons to Huffys, descended onto the Square from Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and South Hamilton Street. Eric Hartz, the organizer of the event, complemented the thunderous entrance with songs from the Raging Grannies, a social justice organization made up of older women. Other speakers included Sen. John Erpenbach, Sen. Mark Miller, Rep. Cory Mason, Rep. Peter Barca, Milwaukee Public School Teachers and the City of Middleton Fire Fighters.
Throughout the speeches you could hear the low rumbling from motorcycles surrounding the capitol building. "The sound from the engines and the crowd was overwhelming," said Miriam Kopelow, a teacher at Wingra Middle School. "I could feel the chants of the people and the rumbling of the bikes."
According to Rep. Cory Mason, motorcycles and collective bargaining rights have a special place in Wisconsin's history. "There are two great things that were invented here in the state of Wisconsin," said Mason. "One is public-sector collective bargaining rights and the other one is Harley Davidson, and no governor in their right mind would try to get rid of any of those fine institutions."
Most of the bikers participating were veterans supporting the unions. Dave Boetcher, a member of the State Veterans Board, rode in support of public workers, but also talked about the privatization of the new veteran's home in Chippewa Falls after private nursing home owners lobbied Gov. Walker.
"We are first and foremost a compassionate state," said Sen. John Erpenbach. However, Gov. Walker's budget wants to "cut a third from the vocational colleges … a billion dollars from K12 … turn back 20 years of recycling" and ultimately wants "to destroy clean and open government in Wisconsin," said Rep. Peter Barca.
Another Wisconsin invention Rep. Cory Mason pointed out, that will prove to be important in the coming months, is the right to recall elected officials. "We will continue this fight until we finally prevail, until we bring back our proud Wisconsin tradition that stands up for working people," said Barca.