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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Light Rain
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Five stories from The People's Microphone at the Wisconsin Capitol
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Rich, from Racine: anti-bill, non-union, small business owner.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

During the noon hour at the more-or-less ongoing rally taking place at the King Street entrance to the state Capitol, between the line to get into the building and the backdrop of a large inflatable replica of what we'll call a robber baron fat cat holding a worker in its paw, ralliers set up a microphone to let the people speak.

"This is the people's mic," it was announced.

The first person I hear was Rich from Racine, who was wearing red-and-white-striped Badgers overalls. He introduced himself as a non-union small business owner who is very worried about, among other things, the no-bid sections of S.B. 11 "for selling off our property." Rich admitted sheepishly that he has some friends in Racine who would call themselves Tea Party members, but even they can't explain to him the sense of the no-bid selling off of state property. "If I ran my business on no bids, I'd be out of business," Rich noted. He thanked union members for coming out to protest every day, noting that "this bill stinks for all of us," finally closing with "Go, Bucky."

Next to take the mic was a woman who announced that she had been born just a few blocks from the state Capitol, and remembered coming to the building often from an age as young as six. "I used to go inside and pretend I was a princess," she said, "and although where we lived was not a princess neighborhood," being inside the elaborate Capitol, "offered hope."

She's a retired schoolteacher, who sent her kids to the U.W. in part because it was an affordable school. She now fears that her retirement funds will be the next on the block. "Go Wisconsin, we can do it, vote next time," she said, suggesting the next election's results would show fewer Republicans winning.

Next up: a young man in a hat who underlined the idea that we need to be nice and be happy and make the world that we want. Personally, he noted, that if Scott Walker backed down on this he would do his best to "forgive Scott Walker."

This was not received to universal acclaim.

He then proceeded to perform a rap that ended with "All I'm trying to do is say I love you," and his turn at the mic ended with applause.

Next, Madison physician and activist Gene Farley took the mic. He'd been carrying a sign that read "Old Geesers for Wisconsin." Farley voiced his concern about the damage that S.B. 11 would do to state health care options. "When you meet people who say they favor the bill," said Farley, "ask them, 'What parts do you like?'" The bill overall, he said, was anti-family. "I have never seen such an absurdity."

Finally, two moms from Janesville shared the mic. "I have never done anything like this before," began the first. She fears that should this bill pass, her children's school will end up closing. "My kids think that Mom can fix everything; they don't understand why I can't fix this." Her friend exhorted the crowd. "Keep it peaceful...Wisconsin is an amazing group of people...stay strong!" before a rally organizer began updating the assembled on the current state of the legal actions to regain access to the Capitol building.

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