With each speaker that took the stage at a downtown Madison rally Saturday in support of high-speed rail, the protest crowd of around 200 didn't miss a beat. When speaker Andy Olsen from Environmental Law and Policy Center mentioned Gov.-elect Scott Walker's name, it solicited, "dumb, dumb, dumb" from the masses.
Scott Ross from One Wisconsin Now mentioned the other states that may receive the stimulus money for rail projects if Walker does what he pledged to do during the campaign and halts the project.
"North Carolina," he said.
"Boo," cried the crowd.
"New York," he said.
"Boo," cried the crowd.
"And even Illinois," he sneered.
"Booooooooooo," they cried.
The rally, held near the site of the proposed Madison station at Monona Terrace, was part of a series of events organized by the Sierra Club to vocalize opposition to plans by Walker to halt the project, thereby returning more than $800 million in funding to the federal government.
One of the speakers, Bob Lien, owner of Lien Tech Inc., a steel fabricator, had the courage to take the stage and admit that he was a Republican who voted for Scott Walker. More booing followed until he pleaded with them to "bear with me here," and went on to explain how he and his company, which won a tentative work bid with the train, are in support of the stimulus project. The train issue, he said, has been manipulated unfairly by both sides, and though he would support using the federal money for roads and bridges, because that can't happen, he supports the train.
The high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, he said, is not about Walker, Governor Jim Doyle, the Democrats or the Republicans. It's about doing what good for the Wisconsin people and businesses.
Then the crowd softened toward him a bit.
The next speaker, State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), echoed Lien's remarks but in the language of metaphorical train quips, increasingly popular with the pro-rail crowd.
"We need to stop the rhetoric, and not the train," said Pocan, "and get [it] back on track." He also pointed out that "there is a very short line of states trying to give back money these days."
Pocan also recalled the days when he worked with Walker in the state assembly. He commended Walker for serving as an open-minded and considerate representative. Those were the same days when Walker supported a Madison-Milwaukee train initiative under then Gov. Tommy Thompson. And Pocan called for Walker to try to remember those days himself and follow through with the high-speed rail.
After, a banner bearing the names of people in support of the train and spanning the length of a football field when unrolled was presented to the crowd.
The event closed with the Raging Grannies, a group of several women, singing songs to fit the agenda. One song was an improvised version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."
"Wisconsin don't you blow it, Wisconsin don't you know it, someone's in the kitchen with Walker."