Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
The gun rights activists in the capitol today are the only ones in the last 4 months who have hurt anyone.
Today the Assembly is “debating” SB 93, the so-called concealed carry law. A small group of gun rights activists and Scott Walker supporters are in the capitol to witness the proceedings. The Assembly broke for caucus shortly before noon, just when the Solidarity Sing Along, organized by the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, was getting started in the rotunda as it has done every weekday for the past 14 weeks.
Among the crowd was former Republican State Senator Dave Zien, who is wheelchair-bound as the result of a motorcycle accident in March in which his left leg was partially amputated. Zien went down to the rotunda floor and aggressively rolled his wheelchair over the singers’ belongings and some of their toes while yelling, “Scott Walker for President!” Solidarity Singers called for the police, but despite their unusually large numbers in and around the Capitol they did not immediately show up.
Meanwhile, two other men, Eugene German from Shorewood, MN, and Henry Rahr from Green Bay, unfurled a “Don’t Tread On Me” banner up on the first floor and began walking around with it, draping it over the singers’ heads as the singing group concluded with “Solidarity Forever.” They hit several of the singers in the head as they attempted to raise the banner over their backs. One of the singers grabbed the banner to toss it off of his body. The banner waver grabbed Mike Dickman in a headlock and delivered a punch to his head and his tooth was chipped, as others continued to scream for the police.
Capitol police officers finally arrived to take people’s statements. Several of those assaulted will be pressing charges.
Since February 15 there have been hundreds of thousands of people protesting the Republican legislative agenda being rammed down the throats of Wisconsinites both inside and outside of the capitol. Very few arrests have been made, and no incidents of assault have occurred.
Gun rights activists like to say that guns don’t hurt people, people hurt people. The gun rights activists in the capitol today are the only ones in the last 4 months who have hurt anyone.
Later in the afternoon, Dave Zien was watching Assembly proceedings from the Gallery, while Eugene German sat in the Assembly lobby, a space generally off-limits to the general public unless they are invited guests of Assembly Representatives. He was amongst a group of men, including NRA lobbyist Darren La Sorte, in animated discussion about the impending legislative victory. These men are not random hotheads, but rather politically-connected agents provocateur.
When asked how the Solidarity Singers would respond to the attacks, R. Chris Reeder, leader of the group said, “We come back tomorrow. And we sing, peacefully, once again, like we've been doing for 15 weeks. He added, “Tenacity. Consistency. Resolve. These are the things we've got going for us. They can't shake our resolve and we won't let them. We rise above. That's how we win. ”
If you liked this story by Rebecca Kemble, check out "A Long Day of Defeat in Wisconsin."
Rebecca Kemble is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.