The Revolution by Night

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 25 2011 12:53 PM

The Revolution by Night

MADISON, Wis. -- My new piece is a diary of the night I spent inside the Wisconsin Capitol.

6:28 p.m.: Gov. Scott Walker's press conference ends with no real news. The hallway outside his office is lined with letters collected by MoveOn.org from Wisconsinites, pleading with Walker to cave. A sign says the group has 10,000 or so letters.

Down the stairwell, on the second-floor atrium, a crowd has parted for a nine-piece funk fusion group called VO5 , which is performing an original song tentatively called "Wisconsin (Cheddar Revolution)." Bandleader Andrew Rohn is still thinking about where to put the parentheses. It's an old song he has repurposed with new protest-specific lyrics.

You think you'll beat us, we're gonna lay down and die?
Screw us and we multiply!

6:55 p.m.: Parts of the second floor have been closed off, but protesters have complete control of the area around Office 116N. On the left: A table for medical supplies, crowded with aspirin, band-aids, feminine hygiene products, and so on. There are no photos allowed, and volunteers are told to give a "press release," hand-written on notebook paper, to anyone who asks questions; it just confirms that the supplies are dropped off by Samaritans who ask what's needed.

On the right: Two tables of foodstuffs, with supplies that dwindle and change quickly. At the moment, they include a Tupperware container of chocolate chip cookies, a tub of peanut butter that a volunteer describes as "various peanut butters working together in solidarity for the cause of deliciousness," regular bread and gluten-free bread, tart candies, and piles of bagels. The food is paid for by donations; volunteers buy it and serve it, as well as remind people to use the hand sanitizer nearby liberally.

In the center: a "family area." It's a safe space with no cameras allowed, where children frolic, play with communal toys, or rest on yoga mats. I'm bonked in the head painlessly by a ball tossed by a child being watched by Trina Clemente. "I'm a student right now," she says, "because there are no jobs."

7:23 p.m.: Ryan Henry, a construction worker from Baltimore, stands in a first-floor hallway singing original songs with a kind of Bob Dylan or Fred Neil lilt.

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David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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