Madison Tea Party Protest, Thousands Rally For and Against Walker

The birthplace of progressivism, Madison, Wisconsin, is the crucial battleground in a fight that has ramifications from coast to coast. Some 60,000 to 70,000 people descended upon Wisconsin's capitol Saturday in the fifth day of protest, both for and against a plan to break up the state's public workers unions, all while the war over budget cuts simmers across the United States.

Gov. Scott Walker (R) is touting a proposal that would require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and essentially do away with public worker collective bargaining powers. Walker is promoting a plan to parity a $3.6 billion budget deficit in part by demanding labor concessions and stripping certain labor privileges.

The Capitol grounds became the hot spot for feuding rallies, as buses brought in Tea Party followers to express support for these proposed union pay cuts. At the same time, throngs of union supporters hovered in their own rally across the street. Crowds have been projected at at least 60,000, according to Madison police.

It comes after days during which scores of Wisconsin schools shut down because teachers elected to join protests at the capitol building. Supporters of Gov. Scott Walker flashed signs reading, "I was at work yesterday. Where were you?" "Stop Leeching, Start Teaching," and "Sorry, we're late Scott. We work for a living." Others waved placards that read "Your Gravy Train is Over," and discussed their support of Walker's cutting state workers pay and benefits to cap a $3.6 billion budget hole.

"I am a union member who supports Scott Walker actions to address the massive debt created by unchecked spending and entitlement programs," said reveler James Smythe, Beloit, WI. "I really hope that every state will adopt the Wisconsin governor’s reforms."

Proposals nearly identical to the one in Wisconsin are gaining momentum in Ohio and Iowa, while Michigan and Indiana are looking at other methods of restricting protections for unionized government workers.

Tea Party Rally, "Era Of Big Labor Over"

The noon counter-rally started with the crowd reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Vicki McKenna, a Madison-based radio talk show analyst, then took the stage, saying voters made their intentions clear in November, and that the government they chose should be permitted to govern.

"Are you going to submit, Wisconsin? Are you going to bend over, Wisconsin?" she questioned the crowd. "Or are you willing to stand up and fight?" Author Brad Thor, author of "The Last Patriot," lambasted the teachers statewide who forced the closure of public schools to attend Capitol rallies. He said the three R's now represent "reading, writing and ripping off the American taxpayer."

"The era of Big Labor is over," Thor later shouted. Intimating that the U.S. ranks comparatively low among Western nations in education, he asked the multitude if their lives were better because of unions; "No!" was the reply. Some national personalities made appearances, including "Joe the Plumber," Joe Wurzelbacher, who spoke for about five minutes. "Unions don't deserve anything," Wurzelbacher declared. "You people don't deserve anything either. You work for it yourself."

Law and order prevailed, although Madison police did detain someone who attempted to destroy several different speaker systems. Police would not release the name of the man who tore the wiring out; the vandalism caused part of the sound system to go out for about five minutes.

Wisconsin radio personality Herbert Cain followed McKenna, at one point stating that what’s going on in Madison is “Ground Zero” for what’s going to take place around the rest of the country.

Governor Walker's Budget Bill

Walker stands resolutely by his bill to curtail or control the cost of union benefits, but it remains stalled by Democratic senators who fled the state to block a vote. All 14 Senate Democrats staged a walkout Thursday, fleeing to Illinois to avert a forced return to the Capitol and an ill-fated vote against the bill. If Republicans can convince just a single Democrat senator back into the chamber, they can force a vote that would almost definitely end with the passage of Walker’s bill. The GOP maintains a 19-14 upper hand in the Senate and a 57-38-1 edge in the Assembly.

Anti-Walker demonstrations are expected to continue. While Walker supporters — many of whom self-labeled as adherents of the Tea Party movement — were swarmed by the tens of thousands of union supporters who enveloped the Capitol, they insisted they stand for the true voice and spirit of Wisconsin residents.