do you hear the people sing?

28 Feb

As I think anyone who knows me knows, I am an unabashed lover of both musical theater and politics. And, I believe that American politics are often at their best, or worst, when those politics are engaged in theatrically. It’s political theater for a reason, and I think we’ve lost a great deal in the discourse due to the current societal devaluation of both rhetoric and performance.

Which is why this Les Miserables moment from the Wisconsin protests has me in tears, especially as word is coming out that among other petty actions by the Wisconsin governor in this struggle, he has just ordered that the windows of the capital building be welded shut in order to prevent food deliveries to the occupying protesters.

Read the stuff. Watch the video. Pay particular attention to the protesters in the background of the footage uninvolved with the planning of the intentional performance. People singing along, and one man, right at the beginning, who smiles and seems to take his hat off in respect.

Stories matter.


20 Responses to “do you hear the people sing?”

  1. verity February 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm #


    • RM February 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      I keep thinking of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Does the governor really think this is different because the protesters aren’t performing factory work in the capitol?

      • Aoede February 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

        Okay, that is a horrifying reference. Can the governor be arrested for that? Illegal, right?

      • Fern February 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

        Oh, jesus. I knew it was reminding me of something, and THAT WAS IT. Shudder.

      • Cassie February 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

        …I was already going “Oh, my God” before I realised how right you are about the comparison. Granted, the Triangle owners didn’t want anyone getting out (with precious merchandise) and the governor probably wants these people all out, but the implications of a fire in that space are frightening.

  2. Mel February 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I can’t do much and the little that I do is mainly watching and learning and remembering.

    There’s certainly something about being a witness.

    Thank you for sharing this video.

  3. bifemmefatale February 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Love this.

  4. Anton February 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    I got such a chill seeing the Polish Solidarity flag.

  5. ZeldaJean February 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    I’m definitely not an expert, but isn’t welding windows shut a fire hazard? Would this qualify as “Risking a Catastrophe”?

  6. Faye February 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I was having a rough morning, and now I have hope. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Throughout this I’ve been thinking sometimes of one of my most prized possessions; an authentic vintage Solidarity button. Apparently my father had something to do with them; I’ll probably never know the full story, but I played with handfuls of their buttons as a child, and years later learned my father spoke some Polish. The back of the pin has rusted to the point where I can’t wear it, but I still treasure it. My family also took part in the great strike in San Francisco, one of the only city-wide strikes in the US back when that could still happen; it’s usually referred to as a dockworkers’ strike, but it was city-wide, Teamsters and all, led to the Seattle strike, and I’m proud my ancestors were in it.

    And now I have a horrible boring business meeting to go to, but the guy I’m having the meeting with – I bonded with him when he admitted he’d been a bit late to meeting #1 because his favorite movie was on and he had to see the grand speech in “The American President”.

    The firefighters’ union have been backing these guys to the hilt, too. If the windows are a fire code violation, they’ll get somebody to cite him. And if not, they’ll break the windows so they can get emergency access. I have hope.

  7. Lisa Harrigan February 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Les Miz at Wisconsin is awesome, so I shared on FB. The more we tell the world, the less Big Media can ignore it.
    Denying an Illeostomy patient their medical equipment. Since I have a husband with a bag, I shudder in the irresponsibility.

  8. Aoede February 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Is it possible to sneak over and unweld them? With some sort of… metal-cutting device? I don’t even know.

    • K`shandra February 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      I loved this particular exchange on Twitter regarding the windows….

      • K`shandra February 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

        Oh, THAT’s cool – I didn’t realize WP blogs did that with Twitter links. (However, it means you don’t get the referral tweet, so I spam you:

        • RM February 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

          I didn’t know WP did that either!

  9. Anna February 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    The problem with the fire code is that at some point in the past, the legislators passed something so that it wouldn’t apply to them. I don’t know WHY, but they did – which meant that they couldn’t get the fire department to remove protesters on those grounds, but also that there’s probably nothing to be done here.

    This post: has good pictures of what’s going on with the windows, and explanations of how you could jury-rig a solution – but it’s still a vicious, petty, unsafe thing to do.

    Also? I still want a Newsies singalong down there. More than ever, “open the gates and seize the day” seems appropriate.

    • Brewster North February 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks for the link! Looks like the story about the windows being welded shut is not necessarily true, but if it had been, it looks as though determining that this was a fire hazard would have been down to either the Capitol Police or some half-baked clusterbungle of a Department of Commerce that is supposed to regulate building fire codes. MFD wouldn’t really have had any say *unless* a fire broke out.

      Still plenty of other political shenanigans to be worried about, if half of what’s in this FDL article is trustworthy.

      • RM February 28, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

        There’s a clarification in comments. Yes, windows were being obstructed; no, it wasn’t welding.

    • Cassie February 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

      FLASH MOBS. When in doubt, inflict musical theatre upon the masses.

      Trotting off to read more about this. Thanks for the link.

  10. Gwydion February 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    I’ve been hearing that song in my head watching protest footage, because I’m just that geeky. I wept watching them actually sing it.

    Thank you.

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