I have talked to several veterans of the Madison Protests over the last few weeks. Each person was vocal about the sensitive compassion of all the people involved. One of the most visible has been John. He has been involved in distributing food to protesters at the Capitol, almost since the first one arrived. How long have you been working here?
“I started serving food here the Thursday of the first week, so a little over three weeks.”
Where does all the food come from? We have been receiving donations, but the vast majority if the food comes when people bring in a bag or box of something. People donate money to stores who then call us up and see what is needed. This is all donations. We have been here everyday. How did you end up over here?
“We had a food station within the Capitol during the occupation, that got removed at one point. We were then outside the King Street Capitol entrance until we found out we needed a permit. That was news to the citizens of Wisconsin. Now we are here. (The free food booth is now across the street from the Capitol, on a church frontage sidewalk, just off the State Street corner.)”
How did you get involved in distributing free food?
” I am a member of the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA), and initially people were contacting the TAA because they were interested in getting food assistance inside the Capitol. There are so many things on TAA’s plate, there is such a need for volunteers that more and more, volunteers have just come from people here in within protests. From all sorts of affiliations. The service has generally become a protest movement ‘product’ .”
A community has emerged here at the Capitol. The co-operative healthy foods, sustainable and family agriculture movement is involved in this nurturing aspect of food support. A heightened sense of responsibility and accountability for the Capitol, and its’ grounds, is felt. During the occupation, only blue, low adhesive, painters tape was used to post signs, supplied by those who cared. Regular services like water and trash pickup were started by volunteers. The ecology minded protect the grounds, reminding people to stay on the sidewalks and not trample the grounds. While a piece of litter is an oddity, even after a 100,000 people have spent the day at the Capitol, volunteers patrol to make sure things are tidy by days end. (Both sides have staged photos of poor crowd hygiene!)