Category Archives: Occupations

Milwaukee Transit Drivers & Mechanics Begin 3-Day Work Stoppage

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Milwaukee transit workers held this Overpass Light Brigade message at Wednesday night's work stoppage rally at MCTS headquarters (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Milwaukee transit workers held this Overpass Light Brigade message at Wednesday night’s work stoppage rally at MCTS headquarters (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

“What you’re seeing here is a middle finger in the face of “right to work” a middle finger at “Act 10″ and anything that tells workers that you don’t have a right to a voice on your job and I love it! I’m proud of it.

- Milwaukee activist and former MCTS driver Angela Walker

Workers in Wisconsin are beginning to wake up to the fact that the only way they can fight back against the attack on labor is through collective action. On Wednesday morning ATU Local 998 workers began what will be a 3-day work stoppage unless their demands are met.

The drivers and mechanics walked off the job at 3:00am after County Executive Chris Abele refused to budge on ATU Local 998′s demands.

ATU 998 workers began their work stoppage at 3:00am at the Kinnickinnic MCTS facility (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

ATU 998 workers began their work stoppage at 3:00am at the Kinnickinnic MCTS facility (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

The workers demands are simple:

After pickets at individual transit facilities during the day union president James Macon rallied hundreds of workers at the MCTS administration building to end the first day of action.

ATU 998 President James Macon speaks to workers gathered  outside of MCYS headquarters Wednesday night (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

ATU 998 President James Macon speaks to workers gathered outside of MCYS headquarters Wednesday night (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

MCTS workers march around MCTS headquarters (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

MCTS workers march around MCTS headquarters (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

The drivers and mechanics represented by ATU 998 will continue the work stoppage until the Fourth of July, when they return to work.

Watch the video below shot and edited by Milwaukee videographer Erik Ljung from Wednesday night’s gathering outside MCTS headquarters.

July 1, 2015 – Milwaukee County Bus Drivers and Mechanics on Work Stoppage from Erik Ljung on Vimeo.

Join workers on Thursday night at 5:00pm for another large rally at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.


Four Marquette University Students Arrested While Demanding School Make Changes

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Marquette student Joseph Martinez and three other students were arrested for sitting in campus intersection to put pressure on University officials (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Marquette student Joseph Martinez and three other students were arrested for sitting in campus intersection to put pressure on University officials (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Milwaukee, WI - It’s safe to say that Marquette University officials now recognize the seriousness of demands brought forth by students last November after a powerful action took place on campus, Monday afternoon. Four Marquette students were arrested while sitting down in the middle of the 16th and Wisconsin Avenue intersection. This followed a spirited march around campus culminating in the final act of civil disobedience.


Back in November of last year, a group of concerned students at Marquette University presented a list of demands to the Marquette President, Administration and Student Body.  The Ad Hoc Coalition of and for Students of Color asked that the university immediately begin to find solutions to these problems affecting minority students on campus. Since, the school has created a Presidential Task force and a subcommittee of MUSG on Diversity and Inclusion, but students have been unhappy with the slow response from officials prompting the march and intersection shutdown.


Marquette University students shut down in middle of busy intersection to put pressure on the school to address their demands (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Marquette University students shut down in middle of busy intersection to put pressure on the school to address their demands (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

The group met at 3:00pm in front of the Alumni Memorial Union, where different student speakers spoke to each of their demands. Nate Hamilton (brother of Dontre Hamilton) and Curtis Sails from the Coalition for Justice also addressed the students before they marched, expressing support for their demands.


The students have made the following demands of administration:

  1. Re-crop the Marquette University’s seal which depicts a biased and impartial narrative of Marquette’s initial relationship with Indigenous peoples to include the Illinois peoples whom are welcoming and guiding Marquette

  2. The expansion of the core curriculum to include 2-3 more diversity and inclusion required courses that unambiguously address the realities of white privilege and oppression at Marquette, in Milwaukee, and in our nation

  3. A dialogue and reflection based training on How to end discriminatory violence in the classroom and in the campus community  for Faculty/Administration/Staff, New student orientation and beginning Service Learners

  4. The further development of the Bias Incident Report System to include an anonymous submission option and a student response team inclusive of student leaders, residence hall RAs and Diversity Peer Coordinators. We hope that the Bias Incident Report System can also influence a No Tolerance Policy for discriminatory violence. We define discriminatory violence as physical harassment, language, exclusion or imagery that targets an individual or group based upon their race/gender/sex/class/national or cultural identities

  5. Increased initiatives to recruit and retain students of diverse backgrounds – especially students from Milwaukee’s community. Currently the racial makeup of the city of Milwaukee is less than 50% white, while all racial minority groups combined only represent 20% of Marquette’s student population. This is unacceptable. Increased initiatives to recruit and retain Milwaukee students from diverse backgrounds can include: implementation of more mentorship programs that will engage MPS students in the Marquette environment and the support of Youth Empowered in the Struggle’s initiative which seeks to provide scholarship opportunities to undocumented students.

  6. Increased initiatives for community engagement that genuinely respect the dignity of Milwaukee and its people. This can include but is not limited to: a family weekend that is culturally inclusive for low-income/first generations students and increased Center for Intercultural Engagement funding

  7. DPS community relationship building efforts vs. heightened criminalization of the Milwaukee’s Northside community and Marquette students of color. Please reference the attached suggestions for DPS commissioning (below)

  8. We call for the University to responsibly invest in companies that adhere to our Catholic and Jesuit ideals of promoting the betterment of the human community, therefore reconsidering its investment policy and divesting from companies that take part in the abuse and repression of human basic rights

  9. The implementation of an annual Presidential Forum on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice which will provide an opportunity for faculty, administration, students and community members to engage in dialogue surrounding social justice issues in our communities

The four students arrested were released late Monday night after posting bail. Each was given disorderly conduct charges. A donation page as been set up to help pay for citations as well as the costs of bail. Students plan to keep the pressure on university officials until they start to see action on the issues brought forward.


View more photos from the action here.

Activists Hold “THERE IS NO PLANET B” Earth Day Message Over Freeway Traffic

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Photo credit: Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade

Photo credit: Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade

Milwaukee, WI - The Overpass Light Brigade Holders of the Light and 350 Milwaukee occupied a pedestrian overpass bridge for Earth Day over I-43 on Wednesday night to remind drivers that there are no do overs when it comes to our planet.


There is No Planet B from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

View more photo from the action here.

Overpass Light Brigade: 2014 in Review

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2014 proved to be another busy year for OLB. There was no shortage of issues to engage, with the ongoing consolidation of power into the hands of the few. We completed well over 50 different actions throughout the year, averaging more than one per week. It was our pleasure to work with a wide array of different groups and movements that helped to organize each of these actions. Collaborations with both new and established grassroots efforts help make OLB a powerful megaphone, as witnessed by our solid presence within the social media landscape. Our Facebook site continues to have a lot of traffic and reach, and we frequently create original content for both Daily Kos and Occupy Riverwest blogs. We’ve developed a strong Twitter following, and our Flickr account that hosts all OLB images saw its total views soar past 5 million, illustrating the powerful reach and continued potential of the medium.

As always, our actions are not possible without the dedication of the Holders of the Lights, who never cease to amaze us with their commitment to this group. No matter the weather or challenge, we always seem to have enough people to realize a powerful action. We started with just six lighted letters in November of 2011, and never could have imagined what OLB would become. The network of Light Brigades continues to proliferate. We saw chapters emerge in the U.S. and around the globe with new brigades popping up in Germany and England. We’re approaching close to 50 different Light Brigades worldwide, which allows coordinated messaging and collaborative campaigns. We spend more and more time helping to foster the network, and hope to see it continue to grow throughout the year 2015 and beyond.

The concept of Light Brigades has entered the lexicon of street protest, and we were delighted when it was included in the “Beautiful Trouble” website, a deep and well-researched compilation of tactics and tools for social change. This inclusion, along with our Wikipedia entry, web presence and increasing number of articles about Light Brigades, will help us secure a place in the history of social movements, street protest, and art+activism. The Light Brigade Network has been recognized by other activist groups and causes as a powerful resource, and we hope to encourage and increase the “movement building” capacity inherent in the medium.


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Thank you for making 2014 a memorable year. Below are some of the categories that represent the issues that drew our attention last year, and will likely have us holding the lights in 2015. We hope that our collective efforts have brought a bit of visibility to these worthy issues of environmental sanity, social equity, racial justice and access to education. Shine on, 2015. See you in the streets and on the bridges!

This year was marred by multiple tragedies involving police and white vigilante violence against young African American men. We stood in solidarity with the impacted communities.

The year began as it ended, with us calling attention to the case of a young African American, whose life was taken early because of a discriminatory system that disproportionately targets black and brown men. These actions resonate strongly with us, and we consider them some of the most serious and important coalitions that we are part of. The Black Lives Matter movement commanded a major part of our organizing efforts and, in retrospect, seems to be the issue of the year. 2015 is shaping up to be no different and we fully intend to continue to bring greater visibility to the injustice of the current system, as we collaborate with groups such as the Coalition for Justice, Wisconsin Jobs Now, and the ACLU.

The urgency of climate disruption continues to increase, as our planet moves closer and closer to 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. Climatologists have identified this number as the tipping point for the earth’s climate. We have organized many actions with 350.orgFossil Free UW Coalition, and the Global Climate Convergence in order to cast light upon the need for serious change regarding our relationship with the planet.

We took our lights on the road to Washington D.C. where we held an XL DISSENT message in front of the White House. We also were involved in behind the scenes planning for some aspects of the powerful People’s Climate March in NYC, and many light brigade volunteers and organizers took to the streets in October in a strong show of support.

Water = Life is a reminder that we are mostly water, interconnected with this magical substance that is often taken for granted. The public’s right to fresh water is being eroded as corporations seek to privatize and profiteer. Beyond this specific struggle, we hope to bring awareness to the power and beauty of water, especially in context to our geographical position regarding the Great Lakes.

2014 saw OLB engaged in some powerful ceremonies, collaborating with the Milwaukee Water Commons and the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwe, among others. We fully expect to continue with these campaigns, with both topical messaging and esthetic response.

We teamed up with Idle No More WisconsinNot Your Mascot, Lac Courte Orielles Mid Winter Social, and other indigenous groups this year to bring more attention to issues of water, representation, wolf hunts, treaty rights and language. We worked with Ojibwe scholars on three different events that foregrounded the Ojibwe “language in lights” and wish to continue to explore the power of language performances for both esthetic and educational outcomes.

The growing influence of money in politics continues to dominate and control our electoral process. Indeed, the vast asymmetry of unregulated money within our governing system is an overwhelming corrupting presence, and we went out with many messages working to enlighten others about this growing problem for our democracy.

We introduced a high powered projection lamp to our messages in 2014 thanks to a generous donation from the Backbone Campaign. It was also great to join organizations like South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend and Southeast Wisconsin Move to Amend to call more attention to the cancer within our political system, which we did in Madison at the Capitol and the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Who would have thought that in 2014, Americans would still be litigating and legislating a woman’s access to birth control? Appalled by the legislative overreach of Wisconsin’s rightwing government, we spent a lot of time at our capitol in Madison to make sure that others were aware about Scott Walker’s efforts to limit the ability of women to control their own bodies. We worked with Planned Parenthood, Ultra-Violet, and other women’s rights groups to make the issues visible.

Public education in Milwaukee and around the country has been under attack for years. We proudly stood with the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association at several school board actions to call out those who continue to attempt to privatize our public schools.

We also held messages outside of MPS School Board member’s houses, inviting them to come out and talk with teachers in the hopes of fostering better communications, and have ongoing actions and concerns about accountability of private voucher schools and for-profit educational institutions.

Due to rapid technological shifts and the overreach of governmental agencies, we live under increasing surveillance, data-tracking and diminution of First and Fourth Amendment rights. Whistleblowers have revealed our dwindling privacy, and the NSA seems to mysteriously work as a governmental shadow cabinet, operating with little transparency or accountability.

In 2014, we held numerous messages related to issues of privacy, and also collaborated with the DIY Drone Brigade to create video aerial flyovers of related OLB messages. Indeed, OLB’s at times uneasy relationship with the limits of the allowable within so-called public space is intrinsically linked to these freedoms.

OLB was born out of the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising, and we don’t ever want to forget our roots in the recall. With that in mind, we continue to work hard to bring more attention to the damage Governor Scott Walker has been inflicting upon the people of Wisconsin, included the denial of healthcare, the dismantling of public education, the gutting of the DNR, and the abysmal economic outlook due to misguided economic polices that only bolster the wealthy donors of a corrupt political system. In the lead-up to the November elections we spent a good deal of time calling out these policies and legislation that threaten the health and wellbeing of Wisconsinites. Although Walker was reelected to serve as governor, we are committed to make sure that he is held accountable for legislative choices that work against everyday people. With this goal in mind, we will continue to struggle side by side with concerned citizens, friends, and grassroots activists who understand that the changes that rack our state are neither positive nor sustainable, but dismantling and divisive.

Though it wasn’t created in 2014, Dusan Harminc’s short documentary about the OLB garnered multiple screenings and awards throughout the year, culminating in being selected by PBS for its online video festival.

Shine on, People’s Bandwidth. Engage! Resist! Disrupt!

Rally At Red Arrow: What Is Being Done?

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It was an unusually warm Sunday afternoon for a December day in Milwaukee. A few hundred concerned citizens gathered in Red Arrow Park, a nice downtown pocket park with a skating rink and coffee shop. Outside this coffee shop is where, last spring, Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer.

The sizable crowd converged to show solidarity with members of the African American community, to join in the chorus now heard ‘round the country: Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter... People listened attentively while members of the faith community spoke eloquently of the pain and hardship and beauty of being Black in America; the challenges of joblessness, the humiliations of systemic racism, the fear of the police. It seemed a bit odd that Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett, and Milwaukee Chief of Police, Ed Flynn, also took the microphone to remind us of the need to work together, to collaborate, to listen to each other. On the surface, these exhortations seemed fine, but they left some of us a bit uneasy. Words at a high-visibility event are easy, but what are our city officials’ responses in proposals, actions, deeds? What is the role of our mayor and police chief regarding police brutality?

It is widely known and backed up with compelling data that Milwaukee is the worst place in America to raise a black or brown child. That’s why so many people are coming out to these events and marching in the streets. But it also begs the question: “What is being done over time about this? Why the sudden attention at a mediagenic event like this, when this creeping cancer of systemic racism has been affecting our city for so long?” It is a good thing to see our two top city officials come out on a damp Sunday to speak and to listen, but we must ask, “What are you doing about this?”

Early in the event, Mayor Barrett took the microphone and spoke of the need for mutual trust within the city, and said something a bit strange about the “…need to stand together even when there are upcoming decisions we won’t like…” so that “…we don’t tear our city apart.” What did this mean? Was this a candid statement of premonition or policy caught up in the moment, or merely a generic sense of foreboding that all mayors of big cities might be feeling right now? It isn’t clear how many people noticed this, but it was an odd statement to make.

Chief Flynn went on to say that “I make no excuses for my department regarding what has happened.” But no one is asking for excuses. People are asking for responses based on fairness, transparency, and justice which create consequences for murderous violence at the hands of the police. He also suggested that “trust is a two way street.” Yes, that is true, but nothing breaks down trust like random violence against people in the communities you are serving and protecting. After all, we were all there because they, the Police, have broken the bond of trust due to their actions and subsequent responses to those actions. Can those bonds of trust be rebuilt, and if so, how?

Everyone noticed that both the Mayor and Police Chief left the area shortly after they spoke. It is no doubt that they are busy men, though not too busy to go off to the side and talk to some police officers while speakers from the faith community took the mic. There were some eloquent and heartfelt words shared. Sadly, these were lost on the Mayor and Police Chief. It takes discipline and patience to really listen to what people are trying to tell you. If you speak, and leave, you foreclose that opportunity. That is a loss for everyone.

So we circle back to the questions: “What is being done? What is the role of our Mayor and Police Chief regarding police brutality?” These are the questions we need to be asking. And we need the Mayor and Chief of Police to acknowledge root causes, not merely engage vague homilies about reciprocation and trust. We need to break the prison pipeline for African American young men, which truly is a shameful statistic for the state of Wisconsin. We need to reinvest in urban jobs and economic districts, looking beyond the fancy condo projects that sit in already healthy city circles. We need to put real and long-term focus on the gutted corridors that were once thriving homes of a robust Black middle class. We need to significantly change the way that policing is done. We need to de-invest in the corrupt policies of militarization that are the outcome of the grim mindset that places the police as an occupying force in American cities with increasingly faceless and violent responses to even misdemeanors and disobedience. We need to invest in community relationships through building those very relationships, beyond predictable cycles of reactive responses to brutal incidents such as the murder of Dontre Hamilton, a man gunned down in Red Arrow Park for the crime of sleeping on a bench on the wrong afternoon where the wrong cop with a history of wrong decisions set a chain of actions in motion that ended with fourteen shots, a shattered family, and a community once again frustrated and angry at a story too often told.

Words and photos by Lane Hall & Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade