Downtown Madison sounds different these days than it did over the first few months of the year. A visitor to the Capitol today is hard-pressed to hear drivers leaning on their horns, activists yelling into megaphones or protesters banging on drums under the Rotunda.
But the spirit that roared during months of protest and weeks of occupation has not been muted. On Friday, a group of Madison activists will issue a zine to commemorate and continue the activism sparked by Gov. Scott Walker's bill to limit public workers' bargaining rights. The zine will be celebrated with a release party on Friday at Electric Earth Cafe on West Washington Avenue.
Occupation Zine is a 44-page publication created by the OZ Collective, a group of four active members and a host of volunteers. This zine features poetry, essays, stories, a four-page timeline and photographs detailing the moments before, during and after the occupation of the Capitol from Monday, February 14 through Saturday, March 12.
"This publication is for and by the people and my hope is it will motivate us and inspire others around the world who read it to raise up against oppressive government systems," says OZ Collective member Kristine Pettersen, who goes by the name "Thistle."
One excerpt begins: "I listened into the night until I started to nod off. I balled up my coat as a pillow and plunked down on the marble in a hallway on the third floor for my first of 11 consecutive nights in the Capitol."
The idea for the zine came early in March after the second occupation of the Capitol building ended. Zine organizers sent out a call for submissions using a listserv maintained by the Madison InfoShop, a volunteer-operated resource library and community meeting spot for activists on Williamson Street.
More than 100 people pledged to send photos, poetry and testimonials. But even with the large amount of submissions, editors began to see holes. Key moments of the protest were missing, says OZ Collective member Mary Jo Walters, and more material was needed.
The submission deadline was extended three times, and what gaps were left after the last extension were filled in by OZ Collective members who searched out familiar protest faces and asked them personally to contribute.
Thistle notes that finding people was easy because of the strong community that developed during the overnight protests.
"The occupation really brought people from all walks of life together," she says. "I met so many people, exchanged numbers, made Facebook friends. Activists linked together and a community organized itself by occupying the Capitol."
The community was also able to provide the OZ Collective with money to produce the zine. The Teaching Assistants' Association at UW-Madison, which since the collective bargaining bill became law voted against certifying itself as a union with the state, gave a $500 grant. The grant will be used to cover costs of the zine's layout designer and to run a Occupation Zine website that has yet to be developed.
Around 300 copies of the zine will be printed at a cost of $500, which Thistle says she will be paying herself. She says she is expecting $2 or $3 donations from anyone who picks up a print version of the zine, which would be just enough for her to break even.
The Occupation Zine is being put together digitally and will be available in a PDF format. Walters highlights the mobility of this format, and notes she is planning to send a file to a friend in Australia, where it will be printed on paper and distributed there.
The zine will also be available online in about a week.
The Friday release party at Electric Earth, which starts at 7 p.m., will feature a reading by a poet featured in the zine and a number of photo displays. Walters says she invited all of the contributors to see the zine that honors them and the time they spent at the Capitol.
But the zine is not only about commemorating history. Walters says the community of activists and citizens who came together to oppose Walker and his policies is only getting stronger.
"Every time I talk to people on the street in my neighborhood, they might not be down at the Capitol or have a sign in their window any more, but they're mad as hell," Walters says. "People are awake. They're not going to sleep."