People who have been following the demonstrations closely reported that Madison was a chaotic scene. “The place is under siege by union thugs, rent-a-mobs, and high schools kids let out of school because the teachers have abandoned their posts,” explained The New American magazine’s Ann Shibler, who has received continuous updates on the protest as it developed from sources within the Capitol.
“That beautiful and recently restored building has been trashed. Bands of thugs are roaming the halls, blockading restrooms, stairwells, and elevators,” she said. “They scream and yell, bang drums, and run around with clenched fists, banging on the windows and doors of the locked legislators' offices.”
She also said students were being used for political purposes and that “thugs” had been bussed in from Illinois. “Keep in mind the majority of these thugs are teachers, who are teaching impressionable children,” she said, noting that Gov. Walker should have called in the National Guard already to prevent the “teachers’ union mobocracy” from overrunning the capitol. “I would also fire every teacher that abandoned their post over this across the state.”
A State Senate staff member reported similar lunacy at the Capitol over the three days of protests. “The police have advised that we lock our doors,” said staffer Jolene Churchill in an e-mail Thursday. “Groups of young kids are marching through the halls yelling at the top of their lungs,” she explained, noting that drums were banging, restrooms and elevators were blockaded, and that there had been vandalism on Wednesday.
“Angry crowds are pounding on our glass windows,” she reported. “Please, please pray for our state.”
Despite the fear, chaos and damage they inflicted, organizers and protest leaders were quite happy with the demonstrations. “I have never been prouder of our movement than I am at this moment,” Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt told the crowd.
This morning, Politico reported that Democratic members of Congress are increasingly being harassed by “angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior” at local town halls. For example, in one incident, right-wing protesters surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety.
This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms.
The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:
Tea Bagger Memo
– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
The memo above also resembles the talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks for pushing an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by Americans for Prosperity, is currently busing people all over the country for more protests against Democratic members. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now “over.”