Tag Archives: worker’s rights

Do Not Underestimate Us

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This guest blog on Friday’s march and sit-in at the MPD administration building was written by Pastor Steve Jerbi of All People’s Church in Riverwest.


What was the rally at Red Arrow? Was it in solidarity of Ferguson? Was it for the victims of violence – families of Corey Stingley and Dontre Hamilton? Was it an immigration rally? Was it peaceniks and the regulars at rallies? Was it for healing or for venting? Was it about speaking to be heard or moving forward?

Of course, the answer is yes. Yes to all of those things.


What makes this moment and this movement frustrating to those seeking a simple narrative is that it is not a single thing. It is the garment woven together from the threads of multiple struggles for liberation. It is what makes it beautiful.

People Begin to Show Up

It can also be frustrating. Multiple objectives converge on a single action. This can appear at times like competing visions. It can seem like the movement(s) is(are) weak.

Yet, this is the brilliance. It does not have to be one thing. It does not have to be neat and tidy and fit into a box. It is real and it lives in the struggle. The movement does not follow a flow chart or a mission statement or other tools of the empire used to keep things in their place. It is organic, growing wild. Sometimes it is flowers, sometimes thisles, sometimes food – all growing together in one messy field. All growing toward the reclaiming of space and beauty and health.

Stop Police Terror

Marching Through Milwaukee Streets

Marching on Safety Building

So when the march from Red Arrow moved toward District 1 headquarters I had the strong feeling this was not a planned action, but an occupying movement born of the moment. The raw energy as body climbed the stairs shook the building. The predictable chants took on new life as the echoed down the hall where officials work behind their desks. It was a celebration, a street party, a dancing revolution. The visceral cries from black and brown and Asian and white revealed that we are far more united and far stronger than anyone suspected.

Taking March to Chief

Climbing the Stairs to MPD

Do not underestimate us.

Group Shot

MPD Occupied 2

On the second floor, doors open toward a balcony that overlooks the street. Chants and emotion filled the room and spilled out doors. Protesters outside the building joined with us.

Come and Join Us

And then the officers in riot gear came from behind the doors separating the lobby from the offices. They moved toward the balcony door. Folks tried to move back inside the building but not all who wanted in could get in.

We Are Going Nowhere Cops Block

With smaller numbers, the mood shifted from celebration to determination. Officers in riot gear guarding doors inside and out can do that.

Soon, citizens were lined up face to face with the police. With less than a hundred left occupying the building, the bulk of the crowd stayed toward the front. At times folks spoke from the anger that stems from police-community relations. Other times officers were invited to join the side of the protesters with a shared desire for justice. Media moved in and out of the crowd and waves of chanting came and went.

Talking to Police Looking Officer In Eyes

Toward the end of the occupation, Dontre’s mother spoke with passion and pain about the loss she felt through the shooting of her son. Families of victims stood face to face with officers.

Dontre Hamilton's Mother

Soon after, the officers in the room left. There were still police guarding the doors to keep anyone else from entering, but in the room it felt different. I felt different. I felt like something had happened, some truth had been spoken, some struggle had been confronted. Though nothing was solved, no outcomes won in that moment, no demands had met – something had happened.

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

The crowd spread out some and more time passed. I was in the stairwell when Captains Jutiki Jackson and Terreance Gordon, along with some other officers met with the crowd. Gone was the riot gear. Captain Gordon did most of the talking, though Captain Jackson was quick to weigh in when he had something to say.

Much of the conversation between organizers and the captains centered on the investigation around Dontre’s death. Both captains pointed toward the DA’s office in terms of who is handling the investigation. Officer worn cameras also came up and Capt. Gordon said the contract is out for bids.

Captain Gordon asked for a meeting, a place where discussion could happen. I made sure organizers knew All Peoples Church was an option. This was offered and the captains agreed.

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

At the end of the day, what was won? How was the movement advanced? Like the rally that started it, this will come with different answers from different people. Some will say it was a victory. Others may say it didn’t go far enough. But what I can say is how I felt. I felt like the voice of the people was heard. I felt like the voices crying out at Red Arrow would not be ignored. It felt to me like an important step in the march toward justice.

Milwaukee March, Rally and Sit-In for Justice from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Photos from this action can be found here and the first action the previous Friday can be found here.

List of Demands


Facebook event page for Monday Red Arrow Park rally

Light Brigades Illuminate the Skies for Global Climate Convergence

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Recent attacks on democracy and justice have given rise to many movements to resist and fight back. However, what often seem to be disparate struggles are heavily intertwined, and those engaged in them are stronger together. The Light Brigade Network is working with the Global Climate Convergence (GCC) to bring the interconnected nature of these movements to light.

globalThe GCC is a broad coalition that is staging a series of education and direct action efforts within the 10-day window between Earth Day and May Day. It is building collaborations across national borders and fronts of struggle, in order to harness the transformative power we already possess as a multitude of social movements across the planet. Earth Day to May Day 2014 is the first in a series of planned annual actions.

The Light Brigade Network regularly gives visibility to this wide array of struggles through their unique lighted messages, and many brigades have already taken out Earth Day to May Day messages.

The recently formed DC Light Brigade joined The Other 98% and Oil Change International for a visit to the U.S. Environmental Agency. Once there, they staged a solidarity action with Reject & Protect, a week-long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC organized by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance.



The Overpass Light Brigade carried out actions in two different Wisconsin cities in support of the GCC. In the first, the group held “PLANET OVER PROFIT” on the Ring Street pedestrian overpass bridge over northbound I-43 traffic leaving downtown Milwaukee.


In the second action, the group chose to visit Madison, where the headquarters of “Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce,” the state’s Chamber of Commerce affiliate. The group is known for their rightwing, corporatist influence peddling and promotion of unregulated extractive industries. OLB’s primary message was STOP FUNDING CLIMATE CHANGE, which they held for both photographers and passersby on the busy thoroughfare.

They then changed out that message to hold three others: PEOPLE OVER PROFIT, PEACE OVER PROFIT, and PLANET OVER PROFIT.



In Germany, Light Brigade Cologne / Germany also got in on the action, with multiple messages supporting the GCC.



The Detroit Light Brigade joined the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS) in front of the Chase Building in downtown with a message and a projection. The group was pushing the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign happening at universities around the globe to pull institutional money from companies that pollute for profit.



Meanwhile, the Denver Light Brigade put pressure on the city to change a shameful piece of legislation that criminalizes homelessness. The Urban Camping Ban Ordinance, passed by the Denver City Council in 2012, essentially makes it illegal to sleep outside anywhere in Denver with so much as a blanket.



The North Texas Light Brigade visited a busy section of Dallas and held a “LOVE MOTHER EARTH” message for all to see. They also handed out GCC flyers explaining the purpose of the Convergence.



In New York City the NYC Light Brigade deployed a message for passersby to see…



Overpass Light Brigade – San Diego stood on an overpass bridge towering over busy traffic with the GCC’s Earth Day to May Day slogan “People, Planet & Peace Over Profit”.

The Orlando Light Brigade was joined by members of Fix the Blue Marble, who are working in Central Florida on the KXL Pledge of Resistance. Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online “Pledge of Resistance“ to engage in non-violent civil disobedience if needed to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Over 100 actions are ready to deploy on short notice across the country should the decision be made to go through with the pipeline.

The People united, will never be defeated!

Overpass Light Brigade: 2013 A Year of Collaborations and Light

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The Overpass Light Brigade was definitely visible in 2013.

The Overpass Light Brigade was definitely visible in 2013.

Milwaukee, WI -  In 2013, the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) worked hard to shed light on issues ignored by the mainstream media. Along with the other 40 affiliates comprising the nationwide Light Brigade Network, OLB is a vivid example of the power of collective action to drive public debate. Eight collaborations this past year between OLB and other groups exemplify the power of the light brigade medium.

350.org/No KXL: Alberta Tar Sands Extraction

This past year, OLB collaborated several times with groups resisting the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands and fighting to address the climate crisis. In one example, OLB joined forces with 350.org to present an illuminated message as part of the nationwide Draw the Line day of action. In another, OLB teamed up with local NOKXL organizers, who are training local people to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop the Keystone XL pipeline as part of the nationwide Pledge of Resistance.

Idle No More: Penokee Hills Mine/Sand for Hydraulic Fracking/Water Rights

The growing Idle No More movement, which works for indigenous rights and land and water protections, collaborated closely with OLB in 2013. The two groups organized several events opposing the Penokee Hill iron ore strip mine in northern Wisconsin, sand mining for hydraulic fracking, and the recent creation of a statewide wolf hunt. They also worked together to support indigenous treaty rights and access to water resources.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin: Women’s Rights

This year, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature attacked women’s rights by passing a mandatory ultrasound bill. This regressive legislation forces women to have the invasive procedure before they can have an abortion. It also mandates that doctors providing abortion services have admitting privileges at a hospital, reducing the number of locations where the procedure may be performed and needlessly forcing women to travel great distances to access services. To pressure legislators, the Holders of the Light displayed messages right in front of the Capitol in Madison. OLB also worked with the group Focus on Jobs, Not Vaginas! to take the fight to the National Governors’ Meeting in Milwaukee.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin asked OLB to make a short film, titled “Be Visible.” This powerful short was directed by Emmy nominee Brad Lichtenstein, and featured the personal stories of woman forced to rely on the vital services of Planned Parenthood in their time of need.

These messages were all held on the Capitol lawn in Madison in July, when the Walker Administration passed his mandatory ultrasound bill.

These messages were all held on the Capitol lawn in Madison in July in solidarity with women across the country, undergoing similar attacks on their reproductive rights.

Solidarity Sing Along: Freedom of Speech

The Solidarity Sing Along, a daily singing protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol, came under attack this past summer. Scott Walker cracked down on the peaceful singers, rewriting a series of administrative rules to force them to get a permit and accept liability for singing in their own statehouse, and then arresting people for noncompliance. Several OLB messages supported the singers and their fight.

Poster and messages created by Overpass Light Brigade.

Poster and messages created by Overpass Light Brigade.

Palermo’s Pizza Workers Union: Labor Rights

Workers continued their year-and-a-half-long strike and boycott against Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee, after the company fired and intimidated employees for union organizing activities. They decided to march 18 miles to take their message to the company owner’s home, and OLB stood in solidarity with them.

Milwaukee Teachers: Strengthening Public Education

Teachers continued their fight to improve working and learning conditions in the Milwaukee Public School system. When the School Board refused to negotiate a new contract, the educators worked with OLB to deliver messages directly to School Board directors’ homes, and turned out en masse with lighted letters at public School Board meetings.

Milwaukee Public School educators held this message at the back of a full public School Board meeting in early February.

March Against Monsanto: Food Sovereignty

OLB helped bring visibility to two major March Against Monsanto actions this past year. The international movement is fighting against the food giant’s threats to consumer safety, ecological health, and family farmers’ welfare.

Wisconsin Jobs Now: Fast Food Workers Rights

Fast food workers went on strike several times in 2013, and the Holders of the Light shone boldly in solidarity. Wisconsin Jobs Now, which led the effort to organize workers in Wisconsin, worked with OLB to organize several actions in support of the nationwide strikes.

2013 was a pivotal year for the Light Brigade Network. The group forged new collaborations, tackled fresh issues, and expanded into areas where they had previously had no on-the-ground presence. At the dawn of 2014, they are stronger than ever, and ready for another year of light activism.

Photo credit: Dusan Harminc

Photo credit: Dusan Harminc


Resolution/ Revolution from Overpass Light Brigade on Vimeo.

Light Brigade Network Beams Evening Messages Through Walmart Black Friday Sales

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DSC09753 copy

The Overpass Light Brigade in Milwaukee and other light brigades around the country shined their feelings about Walmart during Black Friday sales.

The Light Brigade Network - Scenes of rabid shoppers pushing, shoving, stampeding, and punching their way to new flat screen televisions and tablets have been plastered across American’s televisions and computers since Black Friday sales opened Thursday. However, some of the groups that have visited Big Box retailers for Black Friday sales this year have had another more peaceful purpose. These groups didn’t show up for the hottest new door buster sales, but, instead, shined lighted messages against the madness unfolding before them.

The “protestors” are orderly and respectful, in sharp contrast to the manipulated greed of the shoppers and the avarice of our unrelenting consumer culture.


Members of the Overpass Light Brigade held this message outside a Walmart in Milwaukee.

Overpass Light Brigade – PDX held this message for Walmart shoppers in Portland.

Overpass Light Brigade – Massachusetts walked this message right under Walmart’s front entrance before being asked to leave.

The Northern Illinois Light Brigade teamed up with Occupy Naperville and Illinois Jobs With Justice for this message.

The Occupy Gainesville Light Brigade also visited a local Walmart for Thanksgiving Black Friday Sales.

Overpass Light Brigade - Austin also spent time in front of Walmart.

Overpass Light Brigade – Austin also spent time in front of Walmart.

The Atlanta Light Brigade helped the group For Respect, who are currently helping organize Walmart workers around the country.

Overpass Light Brigade held this message over busy traffic in San Diego.

Overpass Light Brigade held this message over busy traffic in San Diego.



Protestors Descend Upon Scott Walker’s Governors Convention

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Milwaukee, WI - This weekend, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is hosting Governors from around the U.S. at the Milwaukee Convention Center. Protestors were there to greet them this afternoon and a large police presence was there to greet protestors.

Massive MPD Presence

MPD have blockaded off the east end of the Milwaukee Convention Center and set up a mobile surveillance trailer for this weekend’s Governors Conference.

The first noticeable thing when approaching the Milwaukee Convention Center was that the entire eastern portion of the block was barricaded off from pedestrians with signs that warned, “Security Zone. Restricted Area. Do Not Enter. Per Order of the Milwaukee Police Department”. Behind the barricades were, at times, ten officers and a mobile video surveillance trailer that had 4 separate cameras attached to it. There were also five mounted officers at two different locations.

Because of the barricades erected by MPD, protestors were forced to assemble on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue away from the convention center, so the demonstrators decided to instead march around the intersection, effectively placing them right in front of the convention center several times and attracting greater visibility for their action.Marching Past Governors ConventionMarching on the Governors ConventionAfter circling around the Wisconsin Avenue intersection several times, the group settled in across the street, where speakers from Occupy Milwaukee, Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin, Amalgamated Transit Union, and Citizen Action of Wisconsin spoke on issues pertaining to the governors in attendance including Move to Amend, women’s rights, and racial profiling in Milwaukee and around the nation to name a few.Art Heitzer Addresses Crowd

Here are the governors who were in attendance Friday for the National Governors Association conference:

Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona, John Hickenlooper (D) of Colorado, Daniel Malloy (D) of Connecticut, Jack Markell of Delaware, Neil Abercrombie (D) of Hawaii, Pat Quinn (D) of Illinois, Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa, Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland, Mark Dayton (D) of Minnesota, Phil Bryant (R) of Mississippi, Jay Nixon (D) of Missouri, Dave Heineman (R) of Nebraska, Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey, Pat McCrory (R) of North Carolina, Jack Dalrymple (R) of North Dakota, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Alejandro Garcia Padilla (Popular Democratic Party) of Puerto Rico, Lincoln Chafee (D) of Rhode Island, Dennis Daugaard (R) of South Dakota, Bill Haslam (R) of Tennessee, Gary Herbert of Utah, Peter Shumlin (D) of Vermont, John de Jongh Jr. (D) of Virgin Islands, Earl Ray Tomblin (D) of West Virgina and Walker (R) of Wisconsin.


Next Protest at the Governors Convention is Saturday.

Tomorrow at 1:00p the group “Focus on Jobs, Not Vaginas!” has organized a “Welcoming Party” for Walker and the other GOP “Vagina Demagogues.” Join them @ 400 W. Wisconsin. The Facebook event page is right here.

More photos from today’s protest can be found here.