Day 115: Silent protesters turn backs on Governor at Special Olympics ceremony
Post by Jesse Russell on 6/9/2011 9:06am
The 25th Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run kicked off on the Capitol Square Wednesday amidst touching speeches, joyous Bucky Badger dancing, and a silent protest of Wisconsin's Governor. Wisconsin's involvement with the Special Olympics goes all the way back to 1969 and, according to Wisconsin Special Olympics President Dennis Alldridge, Wisconsinites not only get involved in the state, but also have a reputation for volunteering at Special Olympics events around the country.
Both Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen were on hand for the opening with each having a solid history of supporting the event. Nearly every year Milwaukee County Executive Walker carried the torch for a leg. Van Hollen has been involved with the Special Olympics since he took office and is Honorary Chair of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. He also has the distinction of being the the first person to tackle rappelling the wall of Madison's Hilton in 2010 as part of a fundraiser for the Olympics.
The strong support for the Special Olympics program by Walker is in stark contrast to how it's being addressed by the GOP on the national level. One of the budget proposals by House Republicans was to slash funding for Project UNIFY, an educational program targeted at ending discrimination of disabled citizens.
Walker has been criticized that some of his budget proposals could directly impact the disabled. Those cuts include freezing enrollment into the Family Care program which helps keep people out of nursing homes and instead in the company of loved ones. Additionally, the Governor's proposed cuts to transit aid have some concerned that it could end special services for the elderly and disabled in cash strapped municipalities.
At Wednesday's event there were already a handful of protesters in the audience before the speakers started. Walker spoke last, and through the more than a half dozen speakers before him the protesters in attendance applauded and were respectful.
There was a tense moment when a group of more than 20 students arrived in zombie make-up, fresh from a "die-in" protest on the State Street side of the Capitol. However, the protesters stood to the sides and in the back during the early speakers and it wasn't until Walker took the stage that they made their presence known.
As Walker stepped to the podium the zombie protesters went to the front of the audience and, along with other protesters in the crowd, turned their backs. Some raised their fists in a symbol of "solidarity." They stood silently and allowed Walker to speak and when he finished the zombie protesters walked away, shook the hands of Special Olympic athletes and wished them luck in the games.
According to an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, "Kelly Kloepping, vice-president of communications for Special Olympics Wisconsin, said the protesters were respectful and caused no disruption."
Below is video of Walker speaking followed by the torch run and followed by the other speakers.
Jesse was born and raised in Connecticut, began blogging in 1997, and moved to Madison in 2003. In 2005, he co-founded dane101 along with Kristian Knutson and Shane Wealti. In addition to helping nearly a dozen contributors run this website he's helped launch various events in the city including What's Your Damage?!, the MadPubQuiz of Awesomeness, the Fire Ball Masquerade, Dane101's Freakin' Halloweekend, and more.