There’s been a large union presence at the State House over SB5, the bill to reform labor negotiation for public employees, and it was planned to crescendo into yesterday, which was when “pro” testimony was to end and “anti” begin. Since we didn’t want our public safety forces to think that they didn’t have a boss, the Tea Party decided it would show up as well. One of the antis told one of the dead tree journals that they wanted to turn Columbus into Cairo. I thought, “Bring it on! Normal citizens flooding the streets to depose a long-entrenched kleptocracy? What’s not to like?”
So, since I had comp time coming and nothing I had to do specifically, I was up at 3 damn 30 to board one of 2 busses at 5 to go down to Cowtown to screw my public university colleagues over assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The idea was to get there early and get in. We were going to wear red shirts to distinguish ourselves from the purple SEIUs and yellow CWAs. This was the first major tactical blunder. I’m not sure, given the state of the art of this movement, that it could have been avoided. But email messages said to wear red, and why. Those communications are by their nature not secure. If there was a color numbering system, as in “Wear color 3″ without explaining why, it might work. Or, since somebody provided a ton of red t-shirts in the event anyway, one could just assemble large numbers of T-shirts of various shades, and distribute them on the busses. In the event, the unions brought in boxes of red “No on 5″ shirts, and put them on once they were in the building. Since we were vastly outnumbered, red became “their” color. Worse, the press reported today that the unions were wearing red because “not all of them were Democrats”, and I heard it on Fox Radio and NPR, so it must be true. The adoption of the red state/blue state symbology by the conservative movement will yet prove to be one of its major own-goals. A machiavellian mind might assume that the MSM chose those colors in election reporting to dilute the original symbology and associations of red (which probably should have joined brown and black on the list of impermissible shirt colors). At the end of the day, while gathering to board the busses, we saw a group of ours, and Rusty asked, “Are they real red or fake red?”, so which I replied, “if they’re fake red, they’re real Reds.”
The second blunder concerned access. We were gathering at the front door of the Capitol, and the antis marched in, in lines 2-3 wide, from either side of the building. I have to admit, it was impressive, especially with the cops and firemen in full dress uniform. They stopped on the flanks, and leaders were handing out something, and some of us thought, “Oh great, are they actually paying street people cash to do this?” But no, it was evidently a seating pass. And then they marched in the doors. Granted, they had to pass through our gauntlet, which couldn’t have been happy-making. But they were in, and we weren’t. I had thought that we had screwed the pooch by staying outside instead of going in. But I heard later that they wouldn’t let us in, that they weren’t letting people in without the seating passes. So…how’d they get the seating passes, and why didn’t we get any? Here they are, going in:
But it was a brave show up front. There was a sound system playing classical music, which I thought was a wonderful touch. I had guessed our side at 300, but Tom Zawistowski said there were 600 of us. If so, the antis were in the thousands, as we were outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1. They had a couple of people milling within us, including this fat young woman who wouldn’t quit shouting. I didn’t bring a camera. Rusty did, but the batteries didn’t last long, and she took too many shots of the McKinley statues and not enough of the crowd. Our guys were being encouraged to take video rather than stills. We had a little rally up front by the sidewalk with guys from Americans for Prosperity and the Buckeye Institute. Then we went in.
Here’s a pic from early on (a number of busses came later). Rusty will bitch because she isn’t in it, but I don’t want a target on her back.
They weren’t letting us into the observation room, as it was full to the gills with people shouting and chanting. We were also told that anyone displaying signs in the building would be thrown out. There wasn’t much to do, and we had to pee anyway, so we found the bathrooms. Eventually we made our way into a melee of antis, and we saw some of ours above the crowd, at the top of the stairs, so we went to join them. They had developed their own sign replacement. holding up their palms with fingers separated for “Five”, and it was really annoying the antis. I suggested that we be careful that the palm was straight outward and the forearm perpendicular, so that they didn’t confuse it with a Nazi salute, though a Nazi salute to the police would have a piquant symbolism all its own. So we did that and chanted awhile. I was trying to get “The people united will never be defeated” going (chant, not the song) but nobody joined me…I guess throwing a commie chant back at the unions was a bridge too far. I also had a nice chat with somebody from Cincy…apparently the Portage Tea Part has godlike status in Ohio, thanks to Tom Zawistowski, who is in fact a tactical genius. He doesn’t think of everything…nobody can. But what he does think up is golden. Eventually, we were chased off the top of the stairs by a state trooper. I asked the trooper (once I was down), “Excuse me sir, I have one question: we were told coming in that if we displayed signs, we would be thrown out. Why haven’t all those people been thrown out?” His eyes narrowed; I think he realized that there were only two possible answers to that, and neither was good. So he picked the least dishonorable alternative, and said, “There’s only one of me. Do you want to go down there and throw them out?” Having been told that mob rules were in fact in force, I suggested entering the throng and pulling out our signs, but was dissuaded, even though I pointed out “This Tea Party ain’t no tea party.” When we were down on the floor, a group of children came to the top of the stairs looking down. Hmmm, was this a previously scheduled visit, or was this a case of, “Let’s look at the bad guys trying to take Teacher’s money”? There’s no way to know.
That all got old, so we left the building and tried to find some legislative offices in another building. We got the wrong one, so we went wandering the streets. We spent some time in a Catholic bookstore before going into a Mexican restaurant for lunch (we just beat the crowd). After that, things thinned out in the observation room, so we got to hear the tail end of the pro-5 testimony. We went into the basement and visited the museum (the words of Frank Lausche’s State of the State address on the teleprompter down there were particularly pertinent to the matter at hand), delivered something to Capri Cafaro’s office upstairs (she was down filling in for one of the committee members in the hearing), came down to hear cheering at the anti testimony, and went out to catch our bus.
The trip home got delayed by a detour. Police had stopped a van on 71 for a routine traffic violation, and found a mobile meth lab in the back. So they closed down that stretch of 71 until the HazMat team could get there. This put us about 45 minutes behind, getting us at the dropoff point at 6:15. We did dinner at Cracker Barrel, then another organizational meeting (details omitted for operational security) then home at 9:15 to do chores and hit the sack.
Tom was more sanguine about results than I was. It was important to be there as a witness, I think. We learned a great deal about tactics. And certainly the media noticed the Tea Party was out. “Activists” are not used to any kind of organized opposition, and maybe finally seeing some was message enough.