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Takeover of a senator's office in Wisconsin

By Alex Stone | April 27, 2007 | Page 15

TWO HUNDRED University of Wisconsin-Madison students walked out of their classes on April 18 to demand an immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq--and then occupied the Madison office of Wisconsin's Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

The walkout was organized by the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) and cosponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, the International Socialist Organization and al-Awda Wisconsin.

"We protested Kohl because he postulates himself as an antiwar candidate, but he continues to vote for funding the war," said CAN member Kate Losey. "We want and demand something more from our politicians."

At Kohl's office, CAN staged a teach-in featuring solidarity phone-ins from Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, and Dave Zirin, sportswriter and author of What's My Name Fool?

Eventually, the office director read protesters an official statement from Kohl. In it, Kohl professed solidarity with the students and said he would "join them in calling for a safe return home for our brave men and women serving in the region."

What you can do

You can read CAN's official statement on the occupation of Sen. Herb Kohl's office at the Campus Antiwar Network Web site, plus learn more information on student antiwar activities across the country.

 

However, he didn't address protesters' demands--which included the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; the full funding of veterans' benefits and health care, including mental health care; and reparations to the Iraqi people.

In response, students decided to stay in his office until Kohl came to Wisconsin and held a public forum on the war. "This unremitting arrogance from the wealthiest man in the Senate has forced us to occupy this office in an act of civil disobedience," wrote Zach Heise in a press release circulated from Kohl's office during the action.

Kohl's staff brought in private security guards to intimidate protesters and restrict their access to bathrooms, water and personal items. In addition, they quarantined people in a small conference room with sealed windows, and without enough room to lie down.

Calls of solidarity came in throughout the evening. "They helped show people this is a bigger movement and we have support from all over the place," said CAN and IVAW member Todd Dennis. Twenty-five people decided to stay overnight.

In the morning, protesters moved to take over the rest of the office. In response, Kohl's staff called in the Madison police to issue citations for "disorderly conduct" and drag out those who resisted. Students voted to stage an orderly retreat. "The protest showed Herb Kohl doesn't care what his constituents think," said Dennis.

CAN members told reporters that the next step was to protest a Halliburton recruiting event on April 30.

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