Hundreds of demonstrators protested in front of the newly opened lobbying office of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, seeking to draw attention to the support the wealthy Kansas firm has given Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The protesters, probably numbering over 1,000, marched from the Capitol to 10 East Doty St., where Koch Industries has its office. They weren't allowed inside (PDF) the building, but they lined the entire block, chanting slogans that made puns of the Koch name, which is pronounced "coke": "1-2-3-4 Walker is a Koch Whore" and "Walker's on Koch."
The Walker-Koch connection has been scrutinized in the past few days, particularly after a journalist crank-called Walker pretending to be David Koch and recorded it. In the call, Walker says he thought about sending agents into the protests to disrupt it and talks about trying to dupe Democratic senators who fled the state into returning.
Former state Rep. Jeff Smith, a Democrat from Eau Claire who narrowly lost reelection last November, said the call illuminates what is at the heart of the conflict: wealthy interests corrupting government.
Smith also referred to Tom Brokaw's book The Greatest Generation, about the Depression and World War-II era generation, which he says expanded union rights and public education. "Since then, we've forgotten what's important. We're going backwards," Smith told the crowd. "I refuse to be referred to as the 'least generation.'"
The protest wasn't just an attempt to draw attention to Koch Industries, but to help maintain the momentum of the ongoing demonstrations in Madison through Saturday.
Rumors are floating that the state will try to push protesters out of the Capitol building after Saturday. Author, radio host and activist Allen Ruff urged the protesters to hang tough: "People have to be ready to move in now through Saturday," Ruff said. "Let [Walker] have the National Guard drag the citizens out of the Capitol of Wisconsin."
This prompted the cheer: "Whose house? Our house."
Another protestor, Kelty Carew, agreed that the occupation needed to continue. She noted that Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), one of the so-called "Wisconsin 14" who have fled the state to stall passage of Walker's bill, has called the occupation of the Capitol "vital."
"They need our help," Carew told the crowd. "The longer we hold out, the longer people are going to see how this is going to hurt everyone. Get in there during the day and get in at night. We've got the infrastructure in place to take care of one another."