Though their numbers were dwarfed by the estimated 100,000 people who gathered there a week earlier, more than 1,000 demonstrators against Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget and his efforts to end most collective bargaining rights for public workers returned to Capitol Square on Saturday, unified by what they said they had in common: Staying power.
"I think people are settling into the resolve and they're here for the long haul," said Cindy Murphy, a detective in computer forensics for the Madison Police Department who marched with the group Cops for Labor.
The group Iraq Veterans Against the War, or IVAW, held center-stage at a noon rally, which took place on the eighth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and featured two hours of speeches by both veterans and labor union representatives.
"We know that veterans are workers, and workers' rights are human rights," IVAW founding member Kelly Daughery told the crowd. "I'm from Denver, Colo., and watching all of you in Wisconsin, out in Madison day after day, showing that you weren't going to let the government and corporations walk over you was so inspiring to me. That's why I came out here. You're inspiring people all across the country."
Demonstrators continued to march around the Square long into the afternoon. Despite sunny spring-like weather and a small showing of pithy signs, the largely middle-aged crowd was all business, with many conversations en route focused on politics and policy. Police reported "absolutely no problems," said Madison Police Sgt. Linda Covert.
"I'll be here every Saturday until this is resolved," said Steven Reid, a retired senior investigator with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, who has made the 120-mile round trip to Madison from his home in Eden nine times since the protests began. "Madison's the epicenter for this. It's not a protest anymore. It's a movement."
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John Kamerling, of Madison, said he's missed only two days of demonstrations on the Square. The veterans' group holding Saturday's rally "is one more group of solidarity," he said. "Last week it was the farmers."
Pam Kitslaar, a home health nurse from Monona, said she has been at the Capitol about 10 times in the past month, most recently to speak out about proposed cuts to BadgerCare.
"I think something that's been lost in all this is all the cuts to Medicaid," she said. "Certainly it isn't money-saving for people to need to go into nursing homes if they lose their personal care workers, or to have people wait until they are so sick that they have to go to the emergency room."
For Julianne Zweifel, a psychologist who came to the rally wearing hockey shoulder and chest pads and carrying a sign that said "Madison moms ready 4 battle," Saturday marked her 12th demonstration at the Square. The friends that often come with her spent the day canvassing for recall efforts, she said.
"I feel it's my responsibility to be out here," she said. "We're a hockey family, so we're used to hitting hard and tough battles, and we're used to being vocal and being out there."