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Voices from the massive pro-union rally in Wisconsin
February 27, 2011 / 12:13 AM / 6 years ago

Voices from the massive pro-union rally in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisc. (Reuters) - More than 70,000 people converged on the state Capitol on Saturday to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to curb public sector union power in order to balance the budget.

Here are some voices in the crowd:

Joel DeSpain, spokesman for the Madison Police Department: "Last week's protest drew somewhere between 60,000 to 70,000 people. We're in excess of that -- somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 -- but we don't have a firm number yet. What we do know is that it is one of the largest protests in Wisconsin history. And it's the largest sustained protest we've ever seen in Madison since the Vietnam War. And there were absolutely no problems. Democracy took place and we had absolutely no problems."

Alice Kaye, 65, retired high school guidance counselor from Ozaukee, Wisconsin: "Last week it was about public-sector employees and most of the people demonstrating here were public teachers. This week, you're seeing them coming from everywhere. If the unions go, the Democratic Party goes, too. I want a two-party system in this country -- or even a three-party one. Not a one-party state."

Amy MacDonald, 35, a stay-at-home mom from Madison, Wisconsin: "I was so moved by the whole scene. There were so many people in peaceful opposition to what the governor is doing and it just really meant a lot ... It was 15 degrees outside and people were totally undeterred. People need to know about the persistence here because it's going to be a long struggle with lots of ups and downs ... It was very Wisconsin. People were congenial and happy and calm and nonviolent and it was just really important to see that people can come together and express themselves in that way and hopefully be effective but do it in the right way."

Scott Sumer, a public teacher from Rockford, Illinois: "I brought my son here because this is what democracy looks like and feels like. He needs to see this. He needs to know this."

Vicki Guzman, a Canadian government employee and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who spent $400 to rent a car and drive the more than 600 miles from her home in Guelph, Ontario to be among the demonstrators. "It's about solidarity, eh? I lived here for 11 years and saw a lot of protests, but nothing this big."

Jeff Skiles, US Airways co-pilot who helped safely ditch a packed passenger jet on the Hudson River in New York City in 2009: "On that day, there were many many heroes: pilots, flight attendants, traffic controllers, firemen, policemen, folks in the ferry boats, EMTs. We didn't abandon those passengers to save themselves. We all worked together to save everybody. That's a lesson that people in this capitol building need to learn ... Every one of them was union."

Actor Bradley Whitford, a Wisconsin native who played a staffer on the West Wing TV show: "I want to thank you for coming out here today to exercise those pesky First Amendment rights again ... When a governor refuses to invest in the people who educate our children and keep us safe, he needs to know this will not stand."

Peter Yarrow, folk singer and founding member of Peter, Paul and Mary: "If the scales of justice weighed in the wrong direction ... then we lose the essence, the heart, the decency of America and we cannot let that happen."

"The eyes of the world are upon you my friends."

"If there are 100,000 people here, and it's not essential that there be in this weather 100,000 people here -- you double that, add another half and that's how many people we had in the march on Washington that changed the history of this country forever. Do not doubt your strength."

"You are the first time this has happened in so long, I cannot tell you. Do not stop."

Reporting by Stefanie Carano, David Bailey and James Kelleher in Madison

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