I spent many hours this past weekend at the Capitol, joining the protests against Scott Walker's budget repair bill. (For more pictures and ramblings, see the last bunch of posts on Madtown Mama...) I don't shy away from expressing my political opinions on my blogs, but they tend not to show up on this one as often, because most of the time, you know, knitting is just knitting.
Come to think of it, though, working knitting into my political/activist life isn't entirely a new idea. In 2004, I was still in graduate school and a member of the TAA when we went on a 2-day strike over contract negotiations with the state of Wisconsin. I remember sitting outside on a warm April day with a ballot box, collecting people's strike ballots, knitting squares for an afghan to donate to A4A and someone came by and made a comment about Madame Defarge. Not that there were any real parallels to draw between me and her, you understand, but Madame Defarge being the most famous fictional knitter in literature, it was hard not to say something.
I've been knitting for A4A for a long time, too, as you can see. For me, that's a political statement, though I suppose it doesn't have to be. I knit for Afghan citizens because I want to alleviate the suffering my country's military has inflicted upon them, even if it's a drop in the proverbial bucket.
And now, even as I write this, history is happening here in my city. (If you are late to the game, read this summary of events leading up to last weekend. It's better and more comprehensive than anything you'll find in the national media.)
I've been to the Capitol many days over the past 2 weeks. On Saturday, I joined crowds more than 100,000 strong (some reports say 70,000, but I was there on the previous Saturday when there were 70,000 and I guarantee you there were way more last weekend) in the freezing temperatures and falling snow to protest the bill. I marched. I held my sign.
After several hours when my toes were so cold they hurt and my fingers were numb, I went home and made dinner.
Sunday, I was back. I joined a few dozen other knitters for a knit-in on the 2nd floor of the Capitol. We didn't have any clever signs (though one from Friday night read "Knitters think this bill should be unraveled!") but we attracted a lot of smiles and pictures and pleasant conversation - what could be heard over the din of the continuing chants and drumming in the Rotunda, that is! I only stayed a couple of hours. I had a great time meeting other knitters and I spent a long time talking to this fine lady, who works for the Historical Society and wonders what will happen to the amazing plethora of signage covering the Capitol walls (she wants some of it to be archived):
The Capitol was supposed to be emptied out at 4:00. By the time I left at 2:30, things were getting a little tense, as rumors flew through the building that police were starting to slow the flow of people coming inside, allowing only one person in for every two going out. Pamphlets were aflutter with information about civil disobedience, the phone number for ACLU lawyers (with the instructions to write it on one's body with a permanent marker) and how to peacefully resist arrest (go limp).
This is what it looked like outside - lines of people stretching to the street, waiting to go inside the Capitol, chanting "Let us in!"
Police standing in solidarity:
...and standing quietly by the doors to the building:
Even a snowman was protesting:
I'd forgotten to eat lunch or even bring water along, so on my way out, I stopped by the world's most famous pizza stand (see this article in the NYT and you'll know what I mean):
When I got home, I checked in with my family and then immersed myself in live footage and twitter feeds, anxious to know how everything went down after 4:00pm. The good news is that no arrests were made and that the chief of police decided to let several hundred protesters stay the night, continuing the vigil that has been going non-stop for two weeks. They also cleaned the first floor of the building, and let me tell you, that needed to be done! People have been extremely conscientious about picking up trash and being as considerate as possible, but when you pack thousands of people in that building every day, it starts to smell like an old gym locker. Just saying. The bad news is that the governor still won't budge (though the news broke last evening that one Republican Senator has announced that he opposed the bill.* We just need two more to vote it down.) Memo to Walker: LISTEN TO YOUR PUBLIC! WE ARE NOT BACKING DOWN!!
Well...I guess this post really wasn't much about knitting at all, was it? I thoroughly enjoyed the knit-in. It was nice to have people to talk to, and have something to do during those hours of protest. I made some good progress on Stuart's sweater, too. More on that soon.
*ETA: I spoke too soon. Republican Senator Dale Schultz won't say whether he's voting yes or no on the bill.
10 hours ago