MILWAUKEE – When George W. Bush came to Milwaukee to Feb. 11 headline a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Wisconsin’s acting governor, Scott McCallum, local activists greeted him with not one, but two ,raucous protest marches.
The first began with a labor rally at City Hall called by the Milwaukee County Labor Council, focusing on the proposed budgets of the Bush and McCallum administrations. Roused by speeches denouncing the slashing of economic support for cities and communities, the workers commenced a rush-hour march through downtown.
Meanwhile, a second protest sponsored by the Milwaukee Coalition for a Just Peace was beginning a mile away at the War Memorial Center on the lakefront. The two protest marches both headed west and converged at the Pfister Hotel for the largest anti-Dubya protest that Milwaukee has seen.
The speakers at the rally at City Hall focused on the loss of jobs and cuts in social services that would result from the proposal by McCallum to eliminate $1.1 billion of state aid to local governments. As the speakers denounced the cuts, protesters from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees and other unions, held up signs saying “protect our cities,” “save our schools” and “firemen deserve our thanks, not pink slips.”
Charlie Dee, a professor at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, stressed the inequality of the cuts that would force the cancellation of nearly 1,400 classes, which would affect 12,000 students, while preserving corporate giveaways.
Dee read off a list of national and local industries getting special tax breaks, adding, “These people should pay $1,000 a plate to meet the temporary governor and President Enron. After all, McCallum and Bush have both fashioned budgets that wage old-fashioned class warfare against the common folks like us. When ‘President Enron’ was putting together his so-called stimulus bill, the top executives at – guess where – Enron, GE, Disney, Time Warner and General Motors, whined about having to pay the minimum corporate income tax. President Enron told them, ‘Don’t worry, for you folks the sky is the limit!’” Dee added, “It is the same in Wisconsin.”
The image of fat cats paying to dine and have their pictures taken with the president, which was expected to raise $1 million for McCallum’s election war chest, was a recurring theme of the speakers.
“This land was made by you and me for you and me,” declared Milwaukee AFL-CIO President John Goldstein. “That’s not what those $1,000 contributors over at the Pfister think. But they can afford those contributions – George Bush and McCallum gave them huge tax breaks.”
“Bush is repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, giving millions to Enron and IBM,” said Goldstein.
“We’re struggling to make ends meet. Milwaukee has lost 35,000 manufacturing jobs; nationally, we lost 1.6 million since July 2000.”
Organizers of the second rally called for an end to the war in Afghanistan and said Bush is using the war to divert attention from his disastrous economic policies.
“He’s using terrorism and the innocent victims of Sept. 11 to push his entire agenda on domestic and international issues,” said Julie Enslow, a member of Peace Action of Wisconsin. “I think it’s outrageous and an insult to the people who died to use their deaths to justify a right-wing agenda.”
Babette Grunow is a member of the Wisconsin Committee for Peace and Justice.