Governor Scott Walker Shouted Down At Wisconsin State Fair

Video by Sam Mayfield

Article by Elizabeth DiNovella reprinted from The Progressive

Protesters greeted Governor Scott Walker at the opening ceremonies of the Wisconsin State Fair. The crowd booed during Walker’s short speech at the We Energies Energy Park.

Anti-Walker protesters dressed mainly in red Ts (one of the main colors of the protesters throughout 2011) while the governor’s supporters wore green T-shirts that said, “Scott Walker, My Hero” on the front and “He’s got nads!” on the back.

Video: Governor Scott Walker officially declared the Wisconsin State Fair opened for business on August 4th. His brief announcement was met by hundreds of protestors shouting “Shame,” so loudly that his voice was barely heard.

Bill Reik, a steelworker from Milwaukee, attended the event, along with others from United Steelworkers, District 2. The Steelworkers have been a key component of the union efforts organizing against Walker and the WI GOP.

It was a very cold day in March when United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard gave a rousing speech at the Capitol. Winter’s freezing temps have given way to summer’s blazing heat, and protests at the capital have given way to knocking on doors in recall districts.

Reik has been going door-to-door in District 8, where GOP senator Alberta Darling is facing challenger Sandy Pasch. It’s been a traditionally conservative district, but Reik says these areas are now supporting Pasch. He’s been hitting the areas north of Milwaukee: Fox Point, Bayside, Whitefish Bay. “They’re flipping,” he said.

He’s optimistic about Tuesday’s recall election, predicting the Democrats will win five of six seats.

Vince Schmuki is a property manager from Shorewood, a “bastion of liberalism,” he said. He’s been volunteering for the Darling campaign, going door-to-door, too.

I asked him how the efforts have been going. “Excellent,” he replied. But he told me a story about a woman in pro-Pasch area who was too afraid to put out a Darling sign. “It’s sad that people are afraid to speak their minds . . . for fear of retribution.”

I asked him his take on the Tuesday election. “We will win, if we don’t take it for granted,” he said. “Well, whoever takes it for granted will lose.”

He thought the GOP would still have its grip on all three branches of state government after all the recalls are over. Liberals, Schmuki said, are bullies, and people are sick of bullies.

The booing and “shame” chants upset him, which prevented Walker from being heard. Schmuki said it was a violation of freedom of speech. “This is wrong,” he said. “Today it was fascism at work. They refused to let him get a word in edgewise.”

I asked Schmuki if he thought of the political culture had been transformed. “It’s changed tremendously,” he said. “People rose up and challenged the status quo.” Note he’s not talking about the pro-union spring rallies. He’s talking about Republican voters rising up November 2010.

Sue Adams is a farmer’s daughter who goes to the state fair every year. She lives and works in Madison and has been a state or public employee for thirty-seven years. She was one of those protesters who booed Walker.

“It’s been a tough six months,” she said. “That last week of June, we saw [people with] thirty to forty years of experience walk out the door everyday,” referring to the high number of people retiring from the public sector.

“And there’s a stampede waiting on the other side, including myself,” she added.

Walker supporters at state fair
Walker supporters at state fair
Adams is “cautiously optimistic” about the Tuesday election, but she’s concerned about election fraud. “If there’s election fraud, it doesn’t matter how people vote.”

(For what it’s worth, Schmuki was also concerned about fraud, but of the voter ID variety. He’s excited about the new voter ID law, which will not be in effect during the recalls.)

The anti-Walker folks may have outnumbered the pro-Walker crowd in the stands during the opening ceremony, but that’s not the case at the fair overall. Sam Mayfield, independent journalist, conducted interviews with people walking on one of the main streets on the fairgrounds. The majority were Scott Walker supporters (11 of 17). A small sample to be sure, but it’s still worth noting.

There’s nothing quite like the state fair to see how far our political culture has sunk in Wisconsin. People call each other names—puppet or bully or fascist—and talk about the guv having balls.

And at the state fair I saw how far our food culture has sunk. Deep-fried everything: pickles, mac & cheese, Oreos, ’smores, and beer. Yes, fried beer.

Between the cheese curds and the name calling, I left the fair with a bellyache.


Elizabeth DiNovella is the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine. Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.

Sam Mayfield is a video journalist and is currently working on a documentary film about the gentle uprising in Wisconsin. For more information visit her blog: