Saturday, November 19, 2011
So you took down the one sign and put up another. Really? At least this doesn't "apologize" for other people's perfectly legitimate political activity in public space. But it still equates it with something uncool and unpleasant, "solicitation." Having Recall Walker on the sidewalk outside your store seems to make you really nervous. Would you put up a sign like this if there were a Salvation Army Santa outside?
If you really want to be neutral, get rid of the sign. No comment is required. The Walker recall has nothing to do with you. The sign just makes it look as if you're taking sides even while you say you're not. "Lest they anger our customers" makes it sound as if you're speaking for all your customers, and you're not.
It also makes you look cowardly -- as if you're saying, "We're not like the Victory Cafe on Atwood Ave. Please don't throw a rock through our window. Thank you."
Either way, you'd do well to lose the sign.
PS: That really is beautiful hand lettering on the sign. Suggest you apply it to other topics.
Friday, November 18, 2011
It's been a tough week for public space, with all the coordinated and often brutal assaults on people exercising their 1st Amendment rights all around the country. That's why, when I saw this sign at my local Trader Joe's, I just snapped. I was angry, and my first impulse was to abandon my cart and just leave.
Don't get me wrong. I love Trader Joe's and shop there frequently. So do a lot of people -- which is why people have been standing outside collecting Recall Walker signatures since Tuesday. The demographics are perfect, and the high foot traffic doesn't hurt. That's just another reason why I found the sign so appalling.
There had been people collecting signatures earlier in the day, and now there were none -- just this sign. Had Trader Joe's somehow managed to drive them off, even though they were on public property (the sidewalk and the entrance to the adjacent enclosed city-owned parking lot)? And even if they weren't responsible for their departure, what were they doing labeling people engaged in legitimate political action "solicitors"? What were they apolgizing for? Whose side were they on, anyhow?
We already have too many corporate infringements on free speech and public space. I hate confrontations, but I knew I had to talk to the manager. I asked him what the sign was about, and he said it was corporate policy not to take sides. Also, there were complaints about the recall petitioners hassling patrons on the way into the store. (Since I can't imagine anyone doing anything so counterproductive as hassling store customers while trying to collect their signatures, I figured the complaints were either from people with over-sensitive nerves, or more likely, pro-Walker troublemakers.)
I said I understood their not taking side, nobody expects a national corporation to endorse the recall. But the sign, with its "apology," made it look as if they were taking sides -- against the recall. Didn't he know they had a perfect right to be on public space outside the store? The sign made it look as if they made them leave.
He seemed shocked by the idea. Said he knew they were on public property, and that they had left for the day on their own (this was about 7:15pm). Of course they had a perfect right to be there. The sign was just Trader Joe's way of saying they were neutral.
I said I thought the "apology" was offensive and would be to many other customers as well. Likewise the "solicitors" appellation. I said I wouldn't be able to keep shopping there if the sign stayed up.
He said he saw what I meant and that he would talk to his boss about what to do. He was friendly and conciliatory, and I left it that.
This afternoon the sign was gone, and someone was collecting signatures out in front again. I showed him my photo of the sign and told him about my discussion the night before. He said he had been there yesterday, too, and had also complained -- but was only told that it was company policy. "You got further than I did," he said. I said I doubted it was just me, but that probably lots of people had complained.
We all need to let corporations know when they cross the line in infringing on public space. The Constitution guarantees us the right to free assembly, but it's one of those rights that tends to shrivel up if it's not exercised.
With 20 tons of snow hauled in by the Hoofers Ski and Snowboard Club for the 2-story slope they built at Union South at the UW-Madison. Mother Nature provided a cold night to match the snow, as the Hoofers held their 3rd Annual Rail Jam. It wasn't quite the Winter Olympics, but it was pretty cool.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
No snow in the forecast, but they'll be snow boarding and skiing under the lights in Madison tonight
They were putting up the hill last night in the Plaza of Union South at the UW-Madison. It's the 3rd Annual Hoofers Rail Jam, sponsored by the Hoofers Ski and Snowboarding Club. Tonight, from 5:00-8:00pm at Union South.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
It started this morning at 12:01am at recall parties all over the state (the Packers trouncing the Vikings for a record 9th straight victory on Monday Night Football made for an auspicious lead-in). In Madison the party was at Hawk's Bar & Grill, where people awaited the stroke of midnight with growing excitement.
A new countdown starts today, the beginning of a long hard fight for Wisconsin's future -- 60 days to gather 544,000 signatures. It's guaranteed to be a holiday season unlike any other. To celebrate the moment, here's a slideshow of the entire Recall Countdown.
As the recall was getting underway in Wisconsin, New York police were just starting their brutal takedown of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. Everything that people couldn't carry out with a few minutes notice was contemptuously thrown into garbage dumpsters -- tents, computers, papers, and most shockingly of all -- the 5,000-book library of donated books that was the intellectual heart of Occupy Wall Street, and where just last Friday volunteers had taken turns reading Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street."
Something is deeply wrong in America. We have 60 days in Wisconsin to start making it right.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Recall Walker Countdown: Face of the WI protest -- teacher by day, freedom fighter by night, mom all the time.
Of all the photos I took at the Wisconsin protests, this is probably my favorite. I took it March 25 near the Capitol Square, and when I think about the Walker Recall that starts tomorrow, it's the photo I think of most often. It seems to sum up the dedication of those thousands of individuals who fought for something larger than themselves, who turned the battle for simple fairness and decency into a family affair.
Millions of dollars are going to be spent by Walker's corporate allies and sponsors in trying to smear the opposition. They'll be playing for keeps, trying to portray Walker's opponents as crybabies, childish troublemakers and malcontents, bad losers and dirty hippie liberals.
Ignore the propaganda. This is the face of the Wisconsin protests -- concerned citizens who are determined to turn Fitzwalkerstan back into the Wisconsin we know and love, to make it a state we can be proud of again.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Recall Walker Countdown: None of us have enough middle fingers to deal with this. That's what the recall is for.
Lord knows, we've all had plenty of occasions to use our middle fingers expressively since March 20, when I took this photo on the Capitol Square. But eventually you have to move beyond anger to action. That's what the recall is all about. Tuesday it starts.