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.
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.
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.
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.