On Eve Of Spring Election Madison Honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson Pays Tribute With Call To Vote

There was no way not to feel the tug of history Monday night at the Wisconsin State Capitol.  The broad sweep of history was on display and acted as a backdrop to the political events that are unfolding in the state.  

A large crowd had gathered while gray clouds passed overhead spitting some ice pellets.  In spite of the weather it was clear that those assembled  were in a reflective mood.  While collective bargaining rights and hopes for the spring election on Tuesday were very much a topic of discussion, the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the dreams not yet realized had also settled over the crowd.

There was no way not to feel the religious spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the opening music allowed for a spiritual quality to the evening.  More than one person must have experienced goose bumps as the bagpipes played and the crowd sang “Amazing Grace.”  There are times when ‘the moment’ just moves a crowd, and I think that was the case at the Capitol.  I noticed some wet eyes at times in the crowd around me.

The backdrop to the event was the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The murder of King took place in Memphis on April 4, 1968.  On the balcony of the  Lorraine Hotel that night was Jesse Jackson.  At the same hour King was killed 43 years ago Jackson stood before those assembled  in Madison and solemnly, but earnestly spoke from the heart.  

“Dr. King is alive because he lives in us,” Jackson told the crowd.

King had been in Memphis to stand with the sanitation workers, and so it was touching to have Jackson bring out two of those workers from 1968, and have them stand alongside him. 

The rich background of history weaved an amazing tapestry on the steps of the Capitol.  I have never seen anything quite like that before at the Statehouse.  The past rose up and spoke to the fight we still need to undertake to complete the vision that King laid out for this nation.

I have watched and heard Jackson many, many times since 1988, but this was the most meaningful.  There was no way to look at Jackson and not see the mental images of the news stories from Memphis.  There was no way to hear Jackson call for a better nation, the need for all citizens to exercise their right to vote,  and the need for racial barriers to be lowered and not hear the voice of King.

This was a special night in Madison.  One I hope that deepens our commitment to the shared values of making this city a better place to live, and our state a more fair place for all our workers.

Massive Rally Monday Night In Madison To Honor Martin Luther King, Jr., Energize For Election Day

This will be intense.  (Someone should alert Governor Walker so he can be out of the statehouse…there may be some tough words that might bother him if he sticks around to hear them.)

One of the men on the Memphis balcony on April 4th, 1968, the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, was Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Monday night Jackson will be in Madison at the Capitol for a massive event to honor King and his legacy, energize the union members in Wisconsin, and drive up the enthusiasm for Election Day on Tuesday.  Though Jackson has been here many times to speak, it will be especially timely and moving to have Jackson in our city at this time.

There is no doubt that King would have championed the workers in Wisconsin and united with them in the struggle we now experience.  There is no doubt King would have strongly encouraged every voter to cast a ballot in the Spring Election on Tuesday.

Those themes will ring out for the thousands that will join together and honor King Monday evening at the Capitol.

There will be eight different marches that will all wind their way to the Capitol Square.

Starting at 4:30, groups will gather at eight separate locations, based on your membership or interest, and a “feeder march” will begin at each location at 4:50, arrive by all eight streets approaching the Capitol for the rally that follows:

  • CWA & Private Sector Workers & Building Trades Feeder March begins at 316 W. Washington, marching to the Capitol up West Washington.
  • Immigrant Rights Feeder March begins at Monona Terrace, marching to the Capitol up MLK.
  • University Students, Staff and Faculty Feeder March begins at Library Mall, marching to the Capitol up State St.
  • Healthcare Feeder March, including healthcare workers, seniors, Badger Care Recipients, and the disabled begins at the Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton St., marching to the Capitol up Wisconsin Ave.
  • Environmental Protections Feeder March begins at James Madison Park on E. Gorham St., marching to the Capitol up N. Hamilton.
  • Public Safety  & Public Workers & Service Cuts Feeder March begins at the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, marching to the Capitol up S. Hamilton. 
  • K-12 Teachers and Students Feeder March begins at the Wisconsin State Dept. of Education, 125 S. Webster St. marching to the Capitol up King St.
  • Anti-Corporate Feeder begins at the parking lot at E. Washington Ave. & Butler Street, marching to the Capitol up E. Washington.
  • Beginning at 5:00 is the “From Memphis to Madison” Rally, featuring performances by Michelle Shocked and Michael Franti, and speakers will include Rev. Jesse Jackson.

    Nighttime Union Rally At Wisconsin State Capitol Lifts The Soul

    Standing tonight in the cold February air outside of the Wisconsin State Capitol made me think of the first time as a young man when my parents drove me to Madison before I started my job under the dome.  As we came up East Washington Avenue that day over 25 years ago I thought how grand the building looked.   As I gazed up at the dome in the nighttime sky while a large rally took position for the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC I was again reminded that nothing  had changed within me when it comes to moments that grab the soul.

    The meaning of the building, the hopes that it can contain when people stand up for the right policies, and the promise of always a better tomorrow for the citizens of this state filled me as much tonight as when I was that young man traveling to Madison for a new job.   I have always known the principles I hold are true, as they never falter or dim.  They just keep getting renewed.

    It is most obvious in these perilous times in Wisconsin that Governor Walker, a strident and arrogant politician, is far more concerned about playing to the national conservative audience than the needs of the voters in this state.   That Walker has rejected a call for negotiations from union leaders speaks volumes about the tone he wishes to take, and the hands he eats from.

    As a Wisconsin citizen that can be very dismaying to witness.

    But there were tens of thousands of others who took time to get to Madison this week, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder for the rights of working men and women.  That sight day after day lifted my spirit far higher than mere words can convey.  The people have struck a most inspirational chord within me.

    Walking inside the capitol tonight I found it full of people who were energized and preparing for the days ahead.  They know this fight is not over….not even near.   They are tired, but not defeated. 

    One hearing room has been taken over by the Teaching Assistants who turned it into a ‘war room’.  It was jammed with tables, computers, and bright-eyed college students and young adults who understand the gravity of this moment in our state.    The walls are lined with charts of media contacts, who was to staff this or that  meeting,  calls to be made. and talking points against Walkers’ bill.   It had the look and precision of a military mission,  but with a far more noble outcome in mind.

    Outside the room there was enough food to feed a couple dozen people.  The hallway was lined with salads and cheeses, rice and meats, and clearly enough carbs to keep the troops operating for the long night ahead.  The atmosphere was serious and yet it was a place where folks understood the need to laugh and smile while fulfilling the objective at hand.  Use every resource and possible angle to ‘kill the bill’.

    In the rotunda people mingled, chanted slogans such as “what’s disgusting, union busting”,  a few beat on drums and led the crowd into passionate displays of political rhetoric.  A lady walked by handing out pizza slices to strangers.  

    It was a large family made up not of kin, but of conviction.

    Outside for the television show James and I stood along the barrier which was roughly 30 yards from the stage of the MSNBC broadcast.    There was power and passion as Schultz encouraged Rush Limbaugh to”wrap his fat ass in the American flag” after a segment of the conservative radio host was played in which state workers were called “free loaders”.   That brought Rush the derision that he so richly deserved.   A fire fighter played a bagpipe, the folks sang “God Bless America”  while the moon shined overhead.   And folks say liberals are not patriotic. 

    Next to us stood a petite lady from northern Wisconsin who was a librarian.  She was delighted when we told her that Jesse Jackson had taken the stage.  It was wonderful to see the excitement she felt over the moment.  After he had been interviewed Jackson swept his way around the barricades and shook hands.  I told Kris, the librarian, to take her gloves off…..”you want him to shake your hand!”   With a beaming smile and enthusiasm that Jackson is known for he left a memory with each hand he touched.

    After a week of protesting and a night of communion of sorts on the Capitol Square there is little time to reflect.  Another day of needing to band together and focus our attention on the labor laws of this state is just hours away.

    That sense of history and duty which calls so many to the Wisconsin Capitol is just getting underway.