Editor’s note: The writer is a youth activist and high-school senior from Detroit who took part in a solidarity delegation to Madison, Wis., from Feb. 20-22.
When you first step into the Capitol, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the feeling of inspiration and solidarity flowing through every corridor and hall. The sight of an ocean of people stirs a hope that is unknown to some and forgotten by many. The main part of the rotunda on the first floor is filled with students who have been organizing the occupation. They have a loudspeaker which everyone gets to use.
The students have played an integral role in this struggle, forming the base for the occupation by organizing sleep-over lists, food donations, medical staff and an information center all within the Capitol itself. Posters are set up, much like a sign in the mall or a building, pointing people toward their desired location.
The second floor has booths that give out information or free literature, and a reserve of food and beverages is at the end of one of the halls. The charging station, lined with people who are blogging the struggle to every corner of the world, is located on one of the hallways, open to all who need to juice their electronic devices.
At night, the second floor is packed with sleeping bodies of the students and workers who decide to “hold down the fort” and ensure they don’t lose their footing inside the building.
People sleep, find friends or make new friends during this time, allowing a sense of community to blossom within the building. After spending a day or two there, you develop a feeling of kinship with the other people — a respect. Occupying the Capitol has allowed me to understand the feeling of camaraderie that is possible among workers and youth.
The third floor is filled with sleeping bags and groupings of people having conversations. This is a great place to meet new people and exchange ideas, as it is a place to get away from the loud chanting and wonderful music and have talks. It also provides a magical view of the entire rotunda — only here are you allowed to see the entire size of the protest.
The diversity of the ongoing event is also quite incredible. Various groups of unions, students, activists and pro-worker organizations have traveled to Madison to show solidarity with the people of Wisconsin who are fighting the union-busting policies of the new right-wing regime. People from California to New York, Texas to North Dakota all have come to support the occupation.
This is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring aspects of the event. Not only do we have unionized and non-unionized workers from both the public and private sectors, but workers and students from every race, creed and sexuality all standing as one.
“The people united will never be defeated!” This common chant is brought to life before our very eyes. In Madison we see our future and the future of the labor movement in the United States, and it is awe-inspiring.