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May Day in Madison -Sí, se puede! From the Perspective of a Second Generation Italian American.

by Patrick DePula

Scott Walker and His Corporate Puppeteers

It’s been a cold spring here in Madison.  Just about every rally I’ve been a part of, it seems to have been freezing, snowing and/or raining.  Surprisingly, the weather looked promising for the May Day, or International Workers Day, rally that would begin with speakers in Brittingham Park, involve a March to the State Capitol, and end with additional speakers on the Capitol steps.  Seemed like a great day to load my son Sal into the bike trailer and set out on a bit of an adventure.

Sal in his chariot, ready for adventure.

Before leaving the house, I decided to wear my Italian National Football team jacket in recognition of my own immigrant ancestry; my grandparents had come from Comune di Loreto Aprutino in Italy.  There is also an important Italian connection with Brittingham Park, as Italian immigrants used to have annual family picnics there, on the shore of Monona bay.  The park happens to be adjacent to the Greenbush neighborhood which was once the heart and soul ofMadison’s Italian community. Sadly, under the guise of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960′s, the Greenbush neighborhood was bulldozed to make way for public housing and hospitals. All of the Italians and African Americans who adored the neighborhood were relocated elsewhere. One of the only remaining remnants of the old ‘Bush is the Italian Workmans Club building, or properly, “Club Lavoratori Italiani Siclilia”. I’m proud to be a member of the council and active in this organization that has continually served the community since 1912.  Anyway, I’m not that far removed from my own familial immigrant past so I feel a particular kinship with current immigrants and their desire for the same opportunities afforded to my family.

So Sal and I pack up and happily hit the road on this beautiful sunny day…and run smack into 30 mph headwinds!  Anyone who has pulled a bike trailer with a 34 lb 3-year-old and all his “stuff” knows that this was not an easy ride.  We eventually arrive despite the best efforts of the wind to keep us away, and notice that the turnout is pretty impressive, but nowhere near the 100 thousand strong crowd that marched in Milwaukee with National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. There is a solid mix of folks associated with the Immigrant Workers Union, Professional and Labor Unions, families with small children, police, teachers and activists. The main message of the rally is:

A Just Taxation System where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share!
Living Wage Jobs!
The Right to Collectively Organize and Bargain!
Quality, Affordable Public Education!
Instate Tuition for Undocumented Students!
Quality and Affordable Healthcare for All!
Protection of our Environment!
Access to Healthy Food and Quality Housing!
A Secure Retirement!
No Arizona-style Anti-Immigrant Laws!

A pretty broad spectrum of people speak to the issues including Ben Manski from Liberty Tree, Jim Cavanaugh-President of the South Central Federation of Labor, Will Williams- Madison area Peace Coalition and Ibed Cisneros- Workers United.  I recognize many people in the crowd and chat with folks about some upcoming democracy-building activities we’re working on.  Some quotes from the speakers:

“The ‘divide and conquer’ mentality must not stand,” Andy Heidt, a union leader and candidate for State Assembly said. he then led a familiar chant –  ”The people, united, will never be defeated!”

“Your issue is my issue,” Will Williams of the Madison Area Peace Coalition stated. “We’re fighting not just for immigrants or for the unions, we’re fighting for freedom.”

Marching up West Washington Ave, Heading to the Capitol

The march begins and off we go accompanied by the sound of drums, chants and other instruments.  I connect with Ben and Sarah Manski and Andy Heidt who is running for the 48th District Assembly seat.  We march together, chatting about future plans and current events surrounding the Wisconsin Uprising while carrying the  Wisconsin Wave banner.  My son Sal is excited to be in the “parade” and is very curious about all the activity around him. Traffic is now backed up quite a bit as a couple thousand people have arrived to participate in the march. We reach the capitol and the wind is so strong that voices from the PA system  are carried away. We can’t get close enough because of our bike and trailer.  Sal says he wants a treat, so we walk over to State Street, buy some popcorn, sit on a bench and have a snack while enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and each others company.  I ask him if he had fun today.   He says “We had a very busy day daddy!  I had fun fighting the bad man in the capitol!” At first this seems funny.  Then the realization sets in that my three-year-old pretty much thinks all this stuff going on is the new state of normal. That to him, we always protest, we always fight.  When I was a kid I had no clue about the War In Vietnam and only a vague memory of Iran seizing US hostages.  Now I find myself growing angry that it has come to this; that Governor Walker and a radicalized right wing assembly/senate has given me no choice but to expend time and energy resisting the corporatization of the State that I truly love.  I wonder what memories my son will have of this time, and how participating in these events will shape his future. I am glad that we can participate together though, and share these experiences.

Father and Son relaxing after the rally.


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Also blogging at Dispatches from Fitzwalkerstan.


Comments

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Comments
17 Responses to “May Day in Madison -Sí, se puede! From the Perspective of a Second Generation Italian American.”
  1. flex gunship palin says:

    at 3 years old he has it all thought out . wellcome to the union little brother

  2. jojobo1 says:

    we keep trying but some are fooled by walkers freeze on home taxes some look at just one item and not the whole thing.I asked someone what about the schools that he took the money from,you don’t have kids in school now but what about your 4 or 5 grandchildren.What will happen when they won’t have a decent school to go to or the classes are so large they aren’t taught as they should.Although I did see an article about walker and the schools where he said kids had to be tested for reading abilities all the time and i agree with that.I have a brother who was pushed from grade to grade till he was old enough to quit at 16.He is lucky if he can read at a fifth or sixth grade level.Instead of helping him the teachers just shoved him along and IMO that should not be.I can’t say why this happened as he is only a year younger than me and the teachers back then did tend to help and stay after school and even have ya over for dinner.That by the way was long before unions in the schools .

  3. Kath the Scrappy says:

    Great reporting Patrick, loved the pics of your handsome youngster!

    Sounds like you all are getting some really exciting Dem candidates running in the Recall districts, all look like very worthy people. I’ve donated to each of them that have been presented to me.

    I think ActBlue must have shared names of people like me that donated to the “Wisconsin 14” while they were out-of-state. Pretty brilliant move IMO, it gives them a headstart on likely donors without having to start from scratch.

    Keep up the good work Wisconsin! The nation needs this to help steer the rest of the country!

  4. You know Barbara, I was thinking something similar about Alaska lately. It is definitely on my list of places to visit!

    Patrick

  5. bubbles says:

    thank you Patrick. you are an amazing loving dad. whatever the future holds your baby will be steadfast in meeting tomorrows challenges.
    i have much respect for the people in Wisconsin. they are leading the way. i hope America will join in and protect our children and ourselves from those who would take all we have worked for and sacrificed for into dust.

  6. barbara says:

    thank you for all you do. though i’ve never been there, Wisconsin has become one of my very favorite of the 50 states.

  7. Writing from Alaska says:

    Thank you !

  8. PaPa…sorry, no sign. The Bike and trailer was plenty! Though I was carrying the Wisconsin Wave banner up the street. Yeah, those Wisconsin Palms tend to disappear with the last fox news van.
    🙂

    • Baker's Dozen says:

      Evidently, those Faux Palms have something in common with FOX. They’re afraid of sunlight! 🙂

  9. PaPa23 says:

    Baker, those Wisconsin palms die when the daffodils start blooming. They prefer cold and snow.

  10. Baker's Dozen says:

    This can’t be Madison. There’s no Faux Palms in the background.
    Where’d you get these pictures? Hawaii? 🙂

  11. PaPa23 says:

    The people of Madison, and all of Wisconsin continue to amaze and inspire me. A few thousand Saturday and a few thousand Sunday and this is about the tenth weekend of these rallies. There were thousands more at the rally in Milwaukee on Sunday. I had the privilege to be present in Madison on Saturday and enjoyed every minute. Although I live a little south of Wisconsin’s border I feel like a real cheesehead when I’m in Madison.
    Patrick, I looked for the “I’m Patrick D” sign Saturday but didn’t see you, maybe the next time. Also, if you’re involved with Wisconsin Wave do you know Kathy W. (aka on Newsvine as American Idle). She is involved with wave and has been doing a tremendous job (like you have) of keeping folks across the country and around the world up to date on what’s happening in Wisconsin. You guys keep good company and do amazing work. Many thanks and hope your legs have recovered from pumping into the wind.

  12. BigPete says:

    Si, si puo!

  13. Alaska Pi says:

    Hang in there Patrick! Your little guy is getting a lesson in direct and open citizen participation in democracy. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
    With you as an anchor, with you to mediate and explain, he’ll develop a measuring stick to lay up against public activities which should help him make informed choices later.
    It’s a fine line- the balance between letting kids just be kids and exposing them to what is shaping the world they will inherit without harming them. Popcorn and chatting with dad on a sunny Mayday amidst the crowd will be part of what informs him down the road.
    I still thank my dad for his calm, open, and direct answers to my questions during the Cuban missile crisis and the hysteria sweeping the adult world around me- the bomb shelters in the back yard routine and commies-behind-every-bush crap.
    May your son know the same solid , sensible place my dad made for me in that storm.

  14. Nan (aka roswellborn) says:

    I had the same reaction when I was a kid; I may have lived through those times, but I wasn’t aware of so very much… and look what that’s gotten us in the end.

    What you’re teaching your (very handsome!) munchkin is that we must be involved. We must pay attention! We have to take the time to be informed! If we don’t, we won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves, and still have to fight this fight (or worse) again.

    My respect and admiration is boundless for all of those working so very hard to protect those “unalienable rights” outlined in the Constitution, endangered by those sworn to “protect” them.

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