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Monday, September 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 70.0° F  Overcast
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'I Still ? UW' reprises, commemorates Valentine's kickoff to Wisconsin Capitol protests
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Organizers dumped hundreds of Valentines onto the marble floor.
Credit:Kristian Knutsen

On the one-year anniversary of the Valentine's Day rally that sparked a statewide movement, students, instructors, and union workers and supporters gathered to promote a simple message of support for education in Wisconsin.

Protesters gathered on the steps of the UW Memorial Union at noon Tuesday for "I Still ? UW," a march to and rally at the Capitol, complete with Valentine's cards protesting state budget cuts for Gov. Scott Walker. The demonstration both repeated and commemorated the opening salvo of last winter's protests.

Alex Hanna, co-president of the Teaching Assistants' Association, said the union is aiming to continue momentum for recalling the governor, and build awareness of specific pieces of legislation up for consideration in the state legislature, including bills on tenants' rights and on mining regulations.

"This is where it began with that first march to the Capitol," he says. "Students have been part of this since the beginning but there's still a lot of work to be done."

Protesters proceeded up State Street to the chant of "One Day Longer, One Year Stronger" and familiar tune of "Solidarity Forever," before entering the Capitol to join the daily Solidarity Sing-Along.

Upon entering the Rotunda, organizers dumped hundreds of Valentines onto the marble floor in a gesture that echoed the demonstrations on the same date last year.

Union leaders addressed the crowd, with Kevin Gundlach, president of South Central Federation of Labor, saying the day marked the anniversary of Walker's attack on the working people of Wisconsin.

As Gundlach addressed listeners in the Rotunda -- "If we keep talking, our voice will be heard," he said -- two Capitol Police officers attempted to stop the protesters' use of an amplifier and speakers, which one officer later said is against building policies.

One UW-Madison student in attendance at the rally, Allie Gardner, said the rally's theme of protecting higher education was especially resonant as the Joint Finance Committee prepares to take up a proposal to cut an additional $67 million in funding to the UW System in a meeting on Wednesday.

The new cuts in state funding would be added onto the $250 million in cuts to the system already approved in the biennial budget.

"With these additional lapses, either our programs and services are being cut, which means quality is being cut, or it's another reason to raise our tuition," said Gardner, the chair of the UW-Madison student government.

Organizers also opened their "Capitol Occupation Documentation Station" in a hearing room to collect artifacts and personal stories from last year's protests. Both the demonstration and station are part of a week-long series of events marking the anniversary of the protests.

United Wisconsin campaign manager Brian Rothgery said the station, which will operate again on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., gives people an opportunity to share their stories and build a critical moment in the state's history. Photos of individuals holding up written text of their stories will be posted online as part of "The Walker Deficit" Tumblr, with many of the materials collected going to the Wisconsin Uprising Archive.

"A lot of what happened last year was really spontaneous and fleeting," he said. "This is an opportunity to celebrate where we've come in the last year."

Markie Pendleton, 59, of La Crosse, visited the station to detail her stories of living in the Capitol for six days and five nights last year. She says the documentation will serve as a reminder to her grandchildren and future generations that civil disobedience can catalyze policy change.

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