May Day 2011 in Milwaukee brought out 100,000 workers, youth and community people to demonstrate for immigrant and workers' rights. The state of Wisconsin has set an example for workers in the global economic crisis. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
In response to state of emergency
Wisconsin Occupy movement spreads
By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Published Feb 4, 2012 10:22 PM
Those participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in Wisconsin are continuing to fight the 1% statewide in a creative series of protests, forums and foreclosure defenses, and by building a statewide and regional network in solidarity with numerous progressive struggles. OWS here is bolstered by the people’s uprising that started with the State Capitol occupation in February 2011.
Critical features of Occupy in Wisconsin include youth and students taking leadership roles, learning organizing skills and working with elder activists of all nationalities, who are also learning from youth and students. Other critical building blocks are white participants in the Occupy Coalition in Milwaukee and in other cities who are open to respecting the leadership roles of people of color and their initiatives, organized by Occupy the Hood and Decolonize the Hood.
To build events, members of all the groups work together on many tasks, including distributing leaflets throughout the city and on city buses. The Occupy Coalition in Milwaukee began the year by joining together in neighborhood activities in the African-American community and celebrating Dr. King Day.
The Occupy Coalition in Milwaukee, which includes Decolonize the Hood, Occupy Milwaukee, Occupy Riverwest and Occupy the Hood, formally joined the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rally and march in Milwaukee on Jan. 16. Each group had representatives speaking and participating as a united delegation in the march to the King memorial statue.
“When any members of a community are oppressed, we all are oppressed. … War has been declared on working and poor folks in this state and across the country. When we invoke the legacies of Father Groppi [Milwaukee-based civil rights activist who died in 1985] and Dr. King, we fight back. When we build alliances at the grassroots level, like the Occupy Coalition I’m a proud part of, we fight back. When labor and community forces join together to agitate and work for infrastructure funding that will really create jobs, we fight back,” said Angela Walker, legislative director of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 and a leader of the Occupy Coalition, at the main rally at St. Francis of Assisi church.
Continued Walker: “When we march on Madison [the state capital] and Washington to demand an end to unjust wars and corporate giveaways that have broken this economy, we fight back. When we demand accountability and not lip service from our elected officials and let them know we’re not going for pacification tactics anymore, we fight back. In our push for safe and affordable housing, access to health and food and an end to foreclosures and evictions in our neighborhoods, we are fighting back. And when we remind those in positions of power that transit is a necessity and that it needs to be fully funded, expanded and respected, we fight back … in the spirit of Sankofa we reach back and carry the battle forward.”
Crisis, fightback deepen
The Occupy Coalition in Milwaukee is now mobilizing for a “Take Back City Hall” Feb. 6 rally at Chase Bank on Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue, with a march to Milwaukee’s City Hall to follow. The coalition will be demanding that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declare a state of emergency based on the economic crisis that exists in Milwaukee and statewide. Of particular concern are the foreclosure epidemic and jobs crisis, especially as these relate to the Black and Latino/a communities.
Milwaukee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. for African Americans. The infant mortality rate for Black infants is approximately 19 per 1,000 live births. There have been more than 20,000 foreclosures since 2007 in Milwaukee, mostly in neighborhoods where Black union workers and their families had jobs at nearby manufacturing plants that have been moved out or shut down by the 1%. Other demands include that funds allocated for community development block grants be disbursed correctly in the neighborhoods where they are needed most, as well as a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
Across the state, Occupy groups are forming and developing. The Occupy WI website lists more than 20 cities in Wisconsin that have Occupy groups, along with their Facebook and web sites. New websites such as Occupy Riverwest are growing and activists are learning many new skills.
Occupy Green Bay hosted its first-ever people’s forum on Jan. 28 and other activists came from throughout the region to attend. Occupy Appleton is engaging in community foreclosure defense actions. And various Occupies are joining in the Feb. 4 “No War on Iran” protests in Green Bay and Milwaukee. All the Occupies in Wisconsin are standing in solidarity with Native nations to oppose an iron ore mine in the northern region of the state near Lake Superior — the largest fresh water body in the world — that would destroy the environment.
Many progressive organizations are working with the Occupy movement in the state, including the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement, which is also sponsoring a Feb. 25 organizing meeting in Milwaukee to fight foreclosures and evictions. Go to wibailoutpeople.org for more information.
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