Zach LaPorte is an Iraq war veteran
Today I witnessed a new type of rally on the State street side of the capitol in Madison. Starting at noon a few musicians came and played a few songs.
Tim Mcilrath front man for the Chicago punk band Rise Against played “Ohio” by Neil Young and “Who’ll stop the rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Many of those in attendance knew the lyrics for these songs and sung along.
When the highly anticipated Tom Morello took the stage, he mentioned an interaction that he had with an airport patron.
“Why are you going to madison?” she asked. He looked at her and said,” Because they are making history in Madison”.
The former guitarist for the rap rock group Rage Against the Machine then performed an original “Union Man” and followed that up with his cover of “Guerilla Radio” by RATM. The music was then finished up with a cover of “This land is our land” by Woody Guthrie. The other artists in attendance sung along with the chorus in a truly moving experience.
A few days before Mr. Morello left for Madison he received an email from an Egyptian protest organizer. The message from said, "Justice is beautiful, but justice is never free. The beauty of Tahrir Square you can have everywhere, on any corner, in any city, or in your heart. So hold on tightly and don't let go. ... Breathe deep, Wisconsin, because justice is in the air. And may the spirit of Tahrir Square be in every beating heart in Madison today."
Following up the music was Wisconsin Firefighters Union president Mahlon Mitchell who has become something of a media phenomenon this week. He has been seen in parades and on the Ed Schulz show on MSNBC. During his speech he announced that the firefighters union would be sleeping in the capitol tonight, which caused the crowd to erupt with applause. He ended by leading a thunderous “UNITY!” cheer that rocked the steps of the capitol.
In the most emotional moment of the rally progressive radio personality John “Sly” Sylvester told of the email he sent to Walker’s personal email account. A visibly shaky Sly told Scott,” I will fight you with every last breath in my body”.
Later a representative from the United Steel Workers union said that they would be sleeping in the capitol tonight alongside the firefighters. He also told of the motto that had worked at a previous steel workers strike, "One day longer!”
Personally, as a punk rock fan, it was great to see people young and old enjoying the music.
7 pm Free concert-
This evening I had the pleasure of witnessing a free music show organized by Tom Morello. Performing was Ike Reilly, the Street Dogs, Wayne Kramer of MC5, along with Morello. I won’t even begin to explain the awesomeness that ensued, but I will touch on a few of the memorable moments of the night.
Mahlon Mitchell made another appearance and showed off some of his Michael Jackson dance moves.
An art teacher from southern Wisconsin came on the stage and led a chant about organizing and how it is important to this movement.
A little known musician from Illinois named Ike Reilly ended a song with, “Standing here showing that mother fucker what it is to be free”, which stirred the crowd raucously. He obviously was referring to Scott Walker.
The Street Dogs are a band from Boston and they played a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” along with a song called “Up the Union”.
Wayne Kramer had some skills on the guitar, unfortunately I can’t convey through words how amazing it sounded.
Morello’s gruff voice and acoustic guitar is in stark contrast to the wailing guitars and screeching vocals we normally hear with Rage. One part of the Tom Morello set that was really popular with the crowd came when he bellowed out, "If you take one step towards freedom, freedom will take two steps towards you!”
At one point, Tom mentioned that as he walked through the capitol on Sunday, it was the first time he ever “bro’ed out” with police at a protest. He was surprised how peaceful the protests were and praised Wisconsinites for their civility.
Overall the night was pretty magical. A free music show by one of my most revered musicians was an incredible show of solidarity. The artists had fun and made sure the crowd was involved. At the end of the show, Tom called the entire crowd on stage. With everyone together and tightly packed he played a new song of his “World Wide Rebel Songs”.
In closing, I would like to say that I have a new found respect for Tom Morello. He genuinely cares what happens in Wisconsin this year. I will leave you with a quote:
“The whole world is watching, and we’re winning” – Tom Morello
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