Thursday night's "funeral march" up State Street featured the world's friendliest group of angry protesters. The latest demonstration against Gov. Scott Walker's union-killing budget bill overflowed with Mardi Gras-style energy, including extravagant costumes, a ragged brass band and lots of inventive props.
Oh, yeah, and a few thousand signs attacking Walker's cuts to education, health care, etc., stretching out for at least three blocks on the way up to the Capitol.
For all the indignation on display, the parade's mood was overwhelmingly joyous. A rainbow coalition of families, students, teachers, professors and union types dressed up for the occasion and some even dressed up their dogs. (My favorite sign was attached to a little black dog: "The Budget Repair Bill Is Great For Me to Poop On!") One trio was decked out in masks, antlers, and shredded burlap; kids were draped in black shawls; and many others carried colorful umbrellas. Former and possibly future Madison mayor Paul Soglin shook hands with the marchers, looking as happy as a pig in mud.
At the center of the parade was a group of pallbearers in top hats, carrying black styrofoam coffins. The idea was that Walker had killed Wisconsin, thus the need for this New Orleans funeral. The brass band played "When the Saints Go Marching In" and other tunes with more energy than polish but hey, Walker will be around for awhile, so they'll have plenty of time to practice.
The parade's funereal strain was no joke. I talked with one teacher who described the cuts her small-town school faces as a result of Walker's recently announced budget: a drastic cut to custodians, nurses, librarians, special education teachers, and so on. She said people at the school had been crying all week.
The parade took a lap around the Capitol Square and streamed up the State Street steps for a rally. The first speaker picked up the funeral theme: "We are here to mourn the state of Wisconsin."
I don't know about that. From what I saw on State Street, Wisconsin is alive and kicking.