Students sitting in overnight at Sen Kohl office

Below is coverage of UW-Madison CAN’s ongoing occupation of Senator Herb Kohl’s office. (Despite the abrupt ending of the first article, which doesn’t make this clear, we’re still in the office.) Other coverage has included Air America and local television and radio.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

(link no longer works)

Anti-war network sits in at Sen. Kohl’s office through the night

Written by Erica Pelzek
Thursday, 19 April 2007

UW students stage walk out in protest of Iraq war

After walking out of their classes at 1 p.m. Wednesday in protest of the war in Iraq and rallying students down State Street, more than 40 members of UW-Madison’s Campus Anti-war Network staged an all-night sit-in at U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s, D-Wis., Madison office.

The protesters insisted the senator return to Wisconsin to meet with the group and hear its demands regarding the war in Iraq.

Filing into Kohl’s 14 W. Mifflin St. office, drumming and chanting anti-war slogans, CAN members spoke via telephone to eminent progressive historian Howard Zinn and antiwar sports columnist Dave Zirin.

Zinn offered words of encouragement to CAN members, stressing Congress is “provoking chaos, they’re provoking chaos and war.”

Arriving at Kohl’s office at approximately 2 p.m., armed with six demands to halt Kohl’s voting for continued funding of the war in Iraq, CAN members met opposition in the form of office staff and U.S. Department of Homeland Security police officers.

Members are asking Kohl to: vote “out of Iraq now,” hand over “Iraq to Iraqis,” “fully fund veterans’ health care, including mental health,” provide “no strings attached reparations to the Iraqi people,” “ban depleted uranium” and advocate funds “for jobs and education, not for war and occupation,” according to a CAN statement.

The group negotiated with office staff for a teleconference with Kohl, set for today or Friday, but refused to leave if its original demand was not met—that Kohl meet publicly in Madison with CAN members, on the record, before UW-Madison’s spring 2007 exam period begins.

Darcy Luoma, director of Kohl’s Madison office, emphasized her desire to cooperate with all of CAN members Wednesday afternoon, but said the office had never seen such a high number of protesters.

“I’m trying to be so accommodating,” Luoma said, as CAN members clashed with the office staff over having all 40 protesters stay in the office overnight.

Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers present said due to building enforcements, only five students could stay overnight and would have to stay in one room of Kohl’s two-room office, at which point, CAN members refused to leave.

Luoma and the officers then said all 40 members would have to remain in the conference room overnight, evoking cries of outrage and frustration from the students.

“If you’re not comfortable, leave!” Luoma said.

Instead, CAN decided to initiate discussions to meet with Kohl personally, in Madison.

Subsequent phone calls to Kohl, who was in session in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, proved unsuccessful, as the senator was “asleep,” according to CAN member and UW-Madison graduate student Elizabeth Wrigley-Field.

As of press time, CAN members were clashing with building security guards over the “rules” of the sit-in. After CAN organizer Chris Dols stepped outside Kohl’s office without an escort, the security guards demanded the students remain in the conference room.

Members brainstormed ideas to deal with the situation, including camping out in front of the office and re-entering the building immediately at the beginning of business hours today, at 8 a.m.
Antiwar ralliers march on Capitol, storm Kohl’s office

After rallying down State Street, University of Wisconsin students from the Campus Antiwar Network and members of the Madison community stormed the office of Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin, and staged a “teach-in.”

Several protesters expressed their displeasure with Kohl’s voting record regarding the Iraq war.

“We’re here to tell Senator Kohl we’re not fooled by his little trick where he tells us he’s against the war but then authorizes paying for it,” said UW junior and CAN member Paul Pryse.

Kate Losey, one of the CAN event organizers, estimated that more than 200 people attended the rally. However, group members later estimated that approximately 100 people had filled the senator’s office at one point.

The event lasted through the night, as protesters demanded a public meeting with the senator be scheduled and refused to leave his office until it was done.

“They aren’t going to have coffee with Kohl in D.C. — they wanted to have it with him in Madison,” UW sophomore Emily Harris said of her fellow protesters in Kohl’s office.

In response to the protest, Kohl released a statement, saying he supports the protesters’ criticism of President Bush’s “broken war policy.”

“I respect and admire the efforts of the UW students that have assembled today to protest the president’s broken war policy and join them in calling for a safe return home for our brave men and women serving in the region,” Kohl said in a statement late Wednesday.

The 1 p.m. rally, peppered with chants of “This is what democracy looks like,” featured speeches from members of CAN and other antiwar student groups, as well as drumming and spoken word performances.

“We are boiling, but we are boiling together,” said UW student Laurel Franklin, another CAN member. “We are boiling revolutionaries for change through counter-movements across the globe.”

Immediately following the rally, a portion of the group marched to Kohl’s office. Steve Burns, a member of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and a UW faculty assistant in the Physics Department, explained the reasoning for the march and recounted the difficulty of meeting with Kohl in person.

“Some people call him Wisconsin’s invisible senator,” Burns said.

The group reached the senator’s office around 3 p.m., where organizers connected by phone with antiwar activist Howard Zinn and antiwar sports columnist Dave Zirin, who addressed the group as part of the “teach-in.”

At approximately 6 p.m., Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, later joined by members of the Madison police force, met with aides in the office and informed the group that only five people would be allowed to remain after 7 p.m. As of press time, roughly 25 people remained in the office.

Assistant press secretary to Senator Kohl Joe Bonafiglio said protests have occurred in the senator’s office before.

“Our staff does what they can to accommodate free speech per the senator’s request,” he said.

Also at the rally, several members of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke about their firsthand experiences at war.

“How many more people need to die for us to learn that our troops being there are not going to do anything but cause more death?” IVAW member Patrick Wilcox said.

Wilcox also related Monday’s Virginia Tech shootings to the war, asserting that Americans have “relative apathy toward death of anyone not from our own country.”

“This happens every day in Iraq,” Wilcox said.

“Socialism for the 21st Century”
June 14-17, 2007, in Chicago

Hear speakers John Pilger, Jeremy Scahill, Amy Goodman, Dahr Jamail, Dave Zirin, Anthony Arnove, Sharon Smith, Laura Flanders, Dr. John Carlos, Jeff St. Clair, IVAW’s Kelly Dougherty, and a host of others, and participate in the discussion over the future of radical and socialist politics in the 21st Century.