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Supporters of Gov. Scott Walker and union backers squared off in dueling demonstrations in Kenosha on Thursday morning, celebrating and decrying Gov. Scott Walker.
While the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity kicked off its statewide “Stand Against Spending, Stand With Walker” bus tour at the Brat Stop, anti-Walker protesters complicated their departure, circling their bus and forcing a back-door exit.
That was after Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, rallied the Walker supporters at an indoor event that was closed off to the counter demonstrators.
Wurzelbacher, an Ohio plumber who became a conservative hero during the 2008 presidential campaign, told the audience of local tea party supporters that the time has come to make hard decisions in Madison.
Regarding collective bargaining for public workers — the crux of the opposition to Walker’s budget repair proposal — Wurzelbacher called it “just a bad idea.”
It’s a system, Wurzelbacher said, where workers pay union dues, the unions donate to Democrats, the Democrats get elected, and then the Democrats negotiate contracts with the unions.
“I mean, come on,” Wurzelbacher said. “I wasn’t born yesterday. I know you’re going to get a damn good deal, and that’s what it’s about. And they’re going to get a damn good deal on the backs of the taxpayer, and that’s wrong.”
Matt Seaholm, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the bus tour is intended to give people a chance to support Walker’s agenda without having to travel to Madison.
The tour is slated to make 10 stops across the state before winding up at the Capitol on Sunday. Seaholm said it began in Kenosha, primarily as a function of geography.
“You see on TV all of the protests against the governor,” Seaholm said. “Well I think, you know, there are so many folks around the state who can’t take weeks off to get the word out that the governor does have support around the state. He has a lot of support.”
The Brat Stop parking lot was one place where Walker did not appear to have much support on Thursday morning.
While about 100 Walker supporters showed up for the bus tour kickoff rally, roughly 175 pro-union protesters marched outside, shouting chants of “hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!”
“We’re here to defend workers’ rights against a very hostile governor,” said Racine native Jason Stephany, a volunteer for the state AFL-CIO.
But as ongoing protests against Walker’s collective bargaining plan neared the end of their third week, some of the union supporters conceded it appeared their message is not getting across to Walker and the Legislature..
“I think he’s so sure of himself that he’s not listening to anything,” said Georgene Voutila, a retired dental hygienist from Milwaukee.
The countering demonstrations went off without major incident, as several Kenosha police officers stood guard.
“It’s America, they’re free to do it,” Racine tea party activist Nancy Milholland said, watching the union demonstrators through a window. “But I don’t appreciate getting screamed at or told to go to hell, like I just was.”
As the events drew to a close, the Americans for Prosperity bus pulled away and drove around to the back of the Brat Stop, causing dozens of protesters to follow on foot to greet the small handful of Walker supporters that boarded.
“When the bus gets to I-94, tell the driver to turn right,” shouted one pro-union demonstrator, pointing toward Illinois.
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