66-day occupation against budget cuts ends
Published May 11, 2011 10:25 PM
Since the beginning of the people’s upsurge in Wisconsin in early
February, the students and workers have resisted in numerous mass actions. One
of the most courageous of these was a student occupation at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which ended in the early morning hours of May 7 after the
students were evicted from their occupied space by the administration and
charged with “trespassing.”
“For the past 66 days our occupation has been an aid and inspiration to
students, unions and community organizations. We have participated in marches,
rallies, the days-long occupation at the state Capitol, educational activities,
canvassing, and even improvisational musicals. We have been organizing and
building solidarity for the benefit of Wisconsin’s educational system,
our communities and the labor movement worldwide,” said Jeremey Kowalski
of UWM Occupied. (uwmoccupied.com)
The students’ occupation began at the Theatre Department, which is facing
virtual elimination under Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-2013 budget proposal,
which entails at least $22.4 million in cuts to UW-Milwaukee and tens of
millions more for the entire 24-campus UW system.
The students then moved to occupy space in the Student Union, which became the
longest occupation in U.S. history according to the students. During the
occupation, UWM Occupied, along with supporters, set up a kitchen, held
educational workshops, hosted cultural events and engaged in other activities
for the entire campus community.
On May 2 the students were given 24 hours’ notice to vacate by the
administration, but they and their supporters fought back, and the university
then gave an eviction notice of midnight, May 6.
Throughout the week the students garnered support from around Wisconsin and
beyond. Signers to the “Showing Solidarity with UWM Occupied”
petition included people from over 30 states in the U.S. as well as supporters
from other countries, including India, Croatia, France, Canada, Britain,
Portugal, Italy, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Australia and Germany. A Bail
Out the People Movement international petition also generated numerous signers,
including struggling students and workers from the University of Puerto
Just before midnight on May 6, all of the students involved in the occupation
moved into their space and set up live Ustream feeds, where they gave regular
updates. After they shut off the live stream in the early morning hours, the
campus police came in and forced the students out. They were taken to a
different location on campus and told they would be given municipal citations
for trespassing after hours on campus.
The administration hasn’t yet moved on the occupying students’
demands, which include the administration’s public denunciation of the
state budget as devastating for the future of UW-M and Wisconsin; public
support for the integrity of the UW system; participation in a pay cut of
administrative salaries; a tuition and fee freeze for students; no union
busting; and keeping in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Despite being evicted, the students remain defiant and continue to fight for
their and other poor and working people’s lives.
“Our aim in this action was to go out on our own terms and re-energize
the anti-austerity movement in Wisconsin and all over the country. The
university did not want us arrested on camera. I think that speaks volumes to
the level of true support of the university administration, which, on one hand,
has come out against the anti-collective bargaining legislation, and on the
other hand, has had no problem stifling us. But they were too cowardly to
arrest us in front of the entire world,” said Peter Adamczazk of UWM
UWM Occupied is continuing the fight for its demands along with the Students
for a Democratic Society, the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association-AFT,
AFSCME Local 82, and other student and worker organizations within the UW-M
The next major statewide protest against union busting and other anti-people
attacks is a May 14 “We Are Wisconsin” rally at the state Capitol
in Madison. A major focus of this rally will be fighting the new attacks by
Gov. Walker and his capitalist backers, including a May 4 announcement by
Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature that if the courts have not ruled on
the legality of Wisconsin’s collective bargaining bill that was passed
earlier this year by early June, it will be added into the proposed 2011-2013
state budget by the Joint Finance Committee.
Contact UWM Occupied at [email protected]. Sign their petition at
http://tinyurl.com/4yhvy9r. To support the Wisconsin struggle, visit
www.wisaflcio.org; wisaflcio.typepad.com; www.vdlf.org;
www.defendwisconsin.org; and www.bailoutpeople.org.
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