When hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on Wisconsin’s capitol last year to protest Governor Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining changes, it furthered the city’s reputation as a top-tier destination for political activists. The city of Madison’s protesting bloodline runs deep, including an ugly 1970 incident in which anti-Vietnam protesters bombed a University of Wisconsin building, killing one and injuring three others. Student groups, such as the aptly acronymed Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC), host marches and sit-ins on a weekly basis.*
One would think, then, that Madison would be fertile ground for the Occupy movement that has set up camp throughout the nation. But many in the city’s professional protesting class have cast derision on the occupiers, believing it was the Wisconsin protests that gave rise to the movement in the first place. Some Madison demonstrators I have spoken to regard occupiers as amateurs, and believe that the movement has grown too large and nebulous in purpose to effect any change. In effect, it has become McProtesting.
Thus, the Madison Occupy site, which sits just eight blocks away from the capitol dome, has descended into little more than an open-air homeless shelter. On one of the first days the encampment was operational, an occupier was cited for public masturbation, which may have inadvertently become a metaphor for the entire national movement.
According to Madison-area blogger Dave Blaska, the police have been called to the Occupy site 80 times in the 150 days it has been active; more than every other day. “Theft, fighting, trespass, property damage, noise complaints, drugs, unlawful weapons, sexual assault, and public intoxication were the predictable manifestations of all this responsibility-free liberal compassion,” notes Blaska.
Yet despite the public displays of lewdness, Madison’s city government hasn’t been shy about offering its own helping hand to the Occupy movement. On Tuesday night, the city council actually unanimously passed a resolution thanking Occupy Madison “for its contributions to the city, notably its inclusion and empowerment of homeless people.” Thus, the same liberals who believe Governor Scott Walker is waging an imagined “war on women” are happy to commend a movement that serves as an actual threat to public safety.
The city council meeting also served as a hearing as to whether the city should allow the occupy encampment to continue past April 30. One homeless occupier, 56-year-old Robert Jones, urged the council to keep the site open, saying “I’m not a shark. I need a place to sleep.” (Politifact has not yet weighed in on whether Jones is, in fact, a shark.) In a rare bout of common sense, the council denied the request to extend the site’s license.
There currently stands a sign outside the Occupy Madison site that says “Not for Sale.” But, as Blaska notes, “they need not worry, they have nothing I want to buy.”
(*NRO’s chief Occupy correspondent, Charles C. W. Cooke, lists “people who don’t want to pay back their student loans” as the interest group he finds most insufferable. I would give college-student teaching-assistant associations the slight nod.)
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.