The filibuster started at 9:00AM on Thursday and we spoke straight through until 9:00AM on Friday. It was successful beyond our expectation. All of the organizing was done over the 24 hour period prior to the event and it was spearheaded by a mere 5 people.
We managed to get on 2 radio talk shows, had the board of the Milwaukee NAACP and many of the ACLU of WI board members show up and estimate that between 75 and 125 people participated as either listeners or speakers. The filibuster never (even at 3 AM) had less than 2 people in attendance and people showed up at all hours of the day and night to speak at one point the room was full and the speakers ranged in age from 8 to 90!
Notable speakers included Martha Toran, Milwaukee Civil Rights leader, William Lynch, leading civil rights and civil liberties attorney in Milwaukee, Lorraine McNamara-McGraw, former Milwaukee Alderwoman, Fred Gordon, former Milwaukee Alderman, James Hall, Milwaukee civil rights attorney, and Vel Phillips the first Afican American and woman to win a political office in Wisconsin (she became an Alderwoman in Milwaukee in the 50's and went on to serve on the WI Supreme Court...a true trailblazer, legend, and hero). After reading a passage on Alito's horrendous civil rights record, Atty Vel Phillips looked up from the podium with a disgusted look on her face and said forcefully, "What ELSE can I do to STOP him from getting on the court???" She went on for an hour on the difficulties she faced as a woman and an African American in an all male world her entire life fighting for equality and respect. Clearly a viceral reaction to the potential for all of her struggles over 8 decades to be rolled back by an activist and hostile Supreme Court. Her sentiment was shared repeatedly during the entire event by all who participated.
As honored as we were by all of the notable participants who spoke at the event, we were also humbled by the many Milwaukeeans who showed up who's names are not so familiar. Milwaukeeans who heard about it on 1290 WMCS and just came because they also wanted an outlet for their frustration, Milwaukeeans who gave passionate pleas for their elected officials to take a stand and not let this nominee so dangerous to civil liberties, civil rights for all Americans, the environment and the balance of power guaranteed by our Constitution get by the Senate without a fight.
We all learned so much. Many of us were upset about Alito's position on just a few issues, but across the board as the full picture of his extremem positions on such a huge range of issues began to appear, even those of us who planned the event realized that it was CRITICAL that the Senate take a stand on this nominee.
America as we know it stands in severe jeopardy with Alito on the Supreme Court! It's no less critical than that.
One note, the media (except for 1290 WMCS in Milwaukee, thanks Eric!), completely ignored our event. They even went so far as to tell us they were sending crews and conveniently didn't show up... No surprise, but the blogosphere can right that wrong!
Sen. Dick Durbin spoke at A VOTING RIGHTS ACT REAUTHORIZATION Conference yeterday in Chicago and told us the fight is not over! I spoke with him personally (Yes, I left the filibuster at 9am and went to Chicago for a VRA Conference) Durbin believes that with help from one or two moderate Republicans in states like Maine and Pennsylvania, he may actually be able to pull together a real filibuster. He says that Alito will get out of the committee on a straight party line vote 10-8 and that he's still optimistic that he could be able to pull together a filibuster. Also, Dianne Feinstein's comments that a filibuster was unlikely brought her 72,000 phone calls in one day last week and she's now back on the bandwagon! Democrats are starting to get a backbone!!
The people CAN make a difference!!! Let's keep it up.
I received this email yesterday... Every tactic we can use is worth a try! If you belong to the ABA and oppose Alito, make a phone call today...
I've done a lot of calling and emailing today in an effort to get more
filibusters going around the country. One of the people I spoke with is Bryan
Kennedy, who ran against Sensenbrenner last time and will run against him again
next time. Bryan said that his contacts with the DNC say the Democrats' plan is:
since the Am Bar endorsed Alito, they're not going to filibuster but all
Democrats will vote against his nomination on the floor. This suggests to me
that some lawyers better get moving to shake up or change that ABA endorsement.
Can you or some lawyers contact the Wis Bar? I know that Art Heitzer's out of
town, but I called one lawyer friend of mine and asked him to call the Am Bar
and challenge the endorsement. Could local lawyers get the Wis Bar to publicly
withdraw support from Alito? And get several state bar associations to do the
same?I enjoyed last night. Thanks for your work. Can you get someone in Madison
to organize a People's Filibuster there?
Nationwide, I am URGING you to CALL you Senators and tell them you want the Alito nomination stopped. The barrage of phone calls is making OUR representatives take notice!!! More than anything, they know that they work for US and they WILL respond to US if we make enough noise!!!