The snapshots included in this photo essay were taken on Saturday March 12, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin where it is estimated that well over 150,000 gathered in protest the recent decision regarding collective bargaining rights.
Considered the largest protest in the state's history (even larger than the Vietnam War demonstrations), the action came only a day after the Republican state Gov. Scott Walker's signed into law a controversial bill to strip most public sector workers of their right to collectively bargain.
Speakers at the rally, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and actress Susan Sarandon and many of those in attendance spoke of the wider implications of this most recent development in the month-long saga that has seen hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets to resist what they feel is a concerted attack not only on labor unions but on the very middle class itself.
Many of those present at the protest felt the attack was spearheaded by the rampant greed and myopic vision of corporate interests. The controversial budget repair bill Gov. Walker was hoping to pass would not only strip collective bargaining rights but would drastically curtail state spending in the arts, environment and state-sponsored medical insurance, a program known as Badgercare which countless low-income families depend upon.
Earlier in the morning, farmers from across the state rode into Madison on their tractors in solidarity. Others chose to bring along their pets, including farm animals. This mascot was one of the more decorative.
The support of firefighters (who were excluded from Walker's public sector slashing) has been a critical display of solidarity with the swelling numbers of protesters over the past few weeks. This firefighter is poking fun at someone's level of intelligence in the matter.
The atmosphere inside the Capitol was markedly different from two weeks before when it felt like the energetic epicenter of the resistance. Those inside the building perhaps numbered fewer than a couple hundred. Authorities have since banned noisemakers, public address systems and any sleeping bags or mattresses. Everyone was kicked out by 4 p.m. that day. In spite of the limitations on free speech, people still chose to enter and air their grievances in the building's central atrium under the watchful eye of bored police officers.