Dan Shafer

Thousands gather Saturday to “Occupy Milwaukee”

By - Oct 16th, 2011 06:22 pm

All photos by Lacy Landre for ThirdCoast Digest.

Seeing streets filled with people is a familiar scene in the city of festivals. But on Saturday as the wind howled through the heart of downtown, people gathered with a different kind of purpose.

On Oct. 15, the growing “Occupy” movement descended on downtown Milwaukee. Thousands gathered at Zeidler Union Square to “Occupy Milwaukee” at 11 a.m. At noon, one event organizer began shouting “Are you ready?” and the gathering turned to a march. Amidst extensive police security, people marched east down Michigan Avenue and turned north on Water Street to congregate in front of Chase Bank. Some of the individuals who led the march placed caution tape around the bank’s entrance to indicate a crime scene. Other event organizers led the crowd in chants of “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

The march continued to M&I Bank, where the Milwaukee Police Department set up a perimeter with officers on horseback on the corner of Wells and Water. There, one speaker said, “We’ll be here all week.” The group began to dissapate by 1 p.m., but much of the crowd marched back to Zeidler Park to congregate and continue the day’s events.

“We want to get attention to the inequalities in wages and wealth,” said Cindy Pawelski, a member of the organization team. “There are a lot of issues, and everyone has their own.” Pawelski mentioned opposition to war spending, bank bailouts and Gov. Scott Walker as motivating reasons for the movement.

“[Gov. Walker] is devastating our state,” she said.

Many of the signs and chants from the crowd were directed at Walker. Adjacent to the park, individuals from the “Recall Walker” effort sold signs and handed out fliers. A familiar chant of “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Scott Walker has got to go!” rang through the streets during the march.

Most of the city’s key unions were also represented at the gathering, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Steelworkers (USW), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

SEIU activist Dorothy (who asked that her last name not be used) was out to send a message to politicians and corporations. “We’re alive and well,” she said.

“The middle class has really taken a bad hit,” she said. “They’ve given up a lot of benefits over the years and now it seems like they’re trying to crush them altogether.”

Dennis Evans, 58, participated in the demonstration because he is concerned about the state of Social Security and Medicare as he gets closer to the age of retirement.

Bryan Pfeifer is an organizer with “Bail out the People“, which stood in solidarity with the Occupy movement, and he has been at protests across the country.

“We are in total opposition to poverty, racism and war. We want jobs. We want a moratorium on foreclosures, we want a cancellation of student debt and we want relief for the people.”

Pfeifer also participated in the Occupy Green Bay protest held on Friday, where he marched on the Green Bay Chase Bank. “Chase Bank is the number one bank in this country responsible for the most amount of foreclosures in the United States,” he said, explaining why Chase Bank was chosen specifically as a target for protests. “They are responsible for refusing to have a moratorium on foreclosures, despite the fact that there’s many egregious practicies within the bank and on these forclosures. People are illegally being kicked out of their homes.”

One woman, Debbie Davis, a performance artist and educator, came dressed as Lady Liberty (on stilts). “I came as the Statue of Liberty to remind us that (she) was a gift inspired by our aspirations to create a government for, by and of the people. And it looks like we have a government that’s dominated by corporate interests.”

With so many different groups being represented, the goals of the movement were somewhat nebulous. However, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, activists met on Sunday to flesh out ideas and work toward focusing the movement more specifically to Milwaukee.

Categories: News, News & Views

0 thoughts on “Thousands gather Saturday to “Occupy Milwaukee””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Zeidler Union Park IS NOT NAMED for our beloved Mayor Frank Zeidler, but for his brother, Carl Zeidler who I don’t believe was a socialist…but who did defeat long time Socialist Mayor Daniel Hoan in 1940. Carl Zeidler was mayor from 1940 to 1942 when he enlisted in the Navy during WWII and was killed when his ship was sunk about six months later.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ed – Thanks so much for the correction. I take personal responsibility for that one, as it was my edit.–Jon Anne

  3. Anonymous says:

    Point well taken, Ed. The article ran before a full vetting and these things happen (we’ve excised that bit).
    Interestingly, Frank is obviously more well-known than his brother Carl and the later, long-term mayor is probably what everything thinks when they pass the park. While Frank Zeidler was Socialist, his brother that earlier challenged Daniel Hoan ran as a non-partisan independent. So in essence, Carl would have welcomed this very particular crowd today, probably whistling a tune from the back rows.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dan: a straight-down-the-middle article, and your wrap up sentence is great. the white gazebo in Ziedler park was designed by local artists, Therese Agnew and Mary Zerbel, and built with the help of union folks….

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was there twice on Sat. Once at 10AM when it started and at 3PM after a noon appointment. In the morning there were a few people there. Not a thousand just to protest. There were Ron Paul supporters and conservatives there to have a laugh at the expense of the pathetic “New Revolution” we see taking place. When I got back at 3 there were more police on horses than real (non paid) protesters. It was really very sad. I felt bad for the 60’s hippies with no where to go. The police that I talked to said there was no way that anyone was going to be aloud to sleep in the park that night, but listening to the crowd early on there were a lot of protesters that were going to try. If it worked it would have been all over the news here. Guess that flopped as well.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yes, at 10 AM there were probably just 150 or so individuals, but by noon the number of attendees had grown significantly. I haven’t seen any actual guesstimates but I would have guessed 1500+. btw: since the Ron Paul signs were seen throughout the march, I think they were there for more than grins. And I only saw 8 or 10 mounted patrol officers all day…so I think your powers of observation may be lacking.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Never before have so many clueless morons smelled together for something so deeply stupid. Good job!

  8. Anonymous says:

    The woman dressed as The Statue Of Liberty is Debbie Davis (well-known in Riverwest), not Bette Davis!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Christina.

  10. Anonymous says:

    TCD and Dan
    Thanks for the coverage on this. I wasn’t able to be down there on Saturday but I am very concerned about many of the issues the Occupy movement calls attention to. And for the record, I’m a white, college educated middle class taxpayer.

  11. Anonymous says:

    >DKEN: Your powers of spelling are lacking as well as your powers of observation mentioned by Ed Heinzelman – “allowed” is the correct spelling for your usage. Remember, in the beginning, the Tea Party was completely unfocused with protestors calling for tax cuts and ending the deficit, while others wanted to holler over abortion rights, and others wanted to oust the democrats or Obama. Still others wanted to spew racist remarks or promote religious reform. Their focus was sorely lacking. Free speech…. promote it for one group, then you should respect the same for others. The truth is that there were more than 1500 with very little advance notice. If you look back on Tea Party gatherings, they often only had 200 or less…. such as their “huge” turnout in support of Walker’s bus tour across the State – they barely had 100 at many of the stops. The overwhelming crowds at the Capitol had their “grins” at the Tea Party turn-outs back then as well. More than a tit for a tat… therefore your smug comments are without merit.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >J: Your insult speaks volumes about you as a person. It is not stupid for people to gather to speak out about their concerns when frustration is so deep with no other avenues to take. If your judgment is valid, then the Tea Party activism had nothing but “clueless morons” out there as well. In this case there are perfectly rational people participating – unhappy with the attack on the middle class, unhappy with the fact the House of Representatives and our State Republican lawmakers are obstructing every path to jobs and a better economy for the sake of politics. actions speak louder than words, and the current legislators can say what they want, but everyone can see exactly what they are doing to maintain the mess that was created by Bush. There are many issues here…. To be so blatantly judgmental without knowing the individual people, their issues and their feelings, demonstrates an unwarranted but highly superior attitude. You seem to be one of those who take sides purely based on political beliefs rather than looking at root causes, or quite possibly you subscribe to the very callous and un-empathetic school of Ayn Rand.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Folks gotta stop squabbling and start THINKING…. are we CITIZENS or merely Consumers?

    There are real problems with a society that chooses to ignore the obvious limits to its current mode of operation… face it… Capitalism has failed us…. its premise may have been good in theory, but the abomination it has become… the Wall Street Funded Hydra of unethical. immoral Multination Globalists have poisoned the well. Now the OWS movement has gone global… regardless of what the US Media wants to portray… wake up people… take ownership for your children’s future. Stop the complete destruction of our resources and plantery inhabitants.

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