Wisconsin Wave, a new political campaign working to oppose corporate influence in state government, has been in the works for weeks, long before the last 10 days of unprecedented protests against Gov. Scott Walker and his agenda for public employee unions. Amid the continuing furor, the group is making its public debut with demonstrations at "Business Day in Madison 2011" -- an annual meeting hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), to be held at Monona Terrace on Wednesday, Feb. 23.
The currently scheduled agenda for the event features afternoon talks by U.S. House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) and Gov. Scott Walker, following a keynote address by Fox Business broadcaster Stuart Varney, and a pre-lunch series of lobbying visits at the Capitol. How or whether this schedule will remain in place in the face of the ongoing protests at the Capitol remains to be seen, though.
Events on the ground have also outpaced the plans of those seeking to cultivate opposition to WMC.
"The events of the last week have forced us to recalibrate and increase our expectations," says Ben Manski, a primary organizer of the Wisconsin Wave campaign, which is working to build lines of communication and solidarity between the various communities opposing Walker. The group's initial goal was to highlight the relationship between the governor and WMC, declaring in its statement of purpose that they are "using the financial crisis caused by Wall Street speculators as an excuse to impose devastating cuts to public services."
Manski says the ongoing demonstrations at the Capitol have already focused public attention on their message, though. "We've been looking at this as a six-month to year-long campaign at minimum. What's happened over this past week with these protests is that we have arrived at the moment we hoped to be at three or four months from now," he explains. "Now we can move forward."
Wisconsin Wave will begin its accelerated campaign with two demonstrations tomorrow. The first is a noon picket of the WMC meeting. Originally schedule to run for an hour, this protest has received so much interest that they hope to continue it longer through the afternoon. This will be followed by a rally at the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. entrance to Monona Terrace, set to begin at 4:30 p.m.
Manski isn't worried about the message of these demonstrations getting lost amid the hubbub surrounding the protests at the Capitol. "We know the situation is extremely dynamic, and we have already impacted the debate. The knowledge that these protests would be happening tomorrow has influenced the rhetoric of labor leaders," he says. "I think the role of WMC is going to become part of the narrative here."