"For the next minute or so, we're gonna have a good motherf---in' time!" musician Tom Morello told the crowd gathered outside the state capitol this afternoon. "I'm sorry if there are some children in the audience, but the struggle for justice is not always rated PG-13."
There were indeed dozens of schoolchildren scattered throughout the crowd. Some used protest signs as sleds to slide down the snow-covered hills outside the capitol. Others noshed on macaroni and cheese pizza, which was supplied for free by Ian's Pizza on State Street out of solidarity with those protesting pending legislation to curtail collective bargaining and require public workers to pay more for health insurance and pensions.
"I want everybody to jump the f--- up in solidarity," Morello continued before he began to sing "This Land Is Your Land"--"an important, radical, and revolutionary song," in Morello's words. "No matter whatever Scott Walker, the Mubarak of the Midwest says, this land is your land."
It's not quite clear who thought it would be good to give a microphone to Morello, formerly of the radical left-wing funk metal band Rage Against the Machine. (The Wisconsin teachers' union website indicates that AFSCME was responsible for organizing the day's events. An AFSCME spokesman did not return messages from THE WEEKLY STANDARD this afternoon).
If the goal of featuring Morello was to lure college students out by the thousands to see the Grammy-award winning musician, the ploy failed. The crowd was far smaller than it was over the weekend--perhaps less than a few thousand--even though many school districts, including Milwaukee Public Schools, were closed for Presidents' Day. Some potential protesters likely stayed home due to inclement weather.
To a person, the handful of teachers and other public employees I spoke to in the crowd today said basically the same thing: We're willing to pay more for health insurance and pensions, just don't touch our collective bargaining rights. And there was Morello, standing there with his guitar, preaching revolution, and singing the kind of lyrics that would get high school students suspended for singing at a school assembly.
Before his rendition of "This Land is Your Land," Morello, with the aid of a guitar and harmonica, performed "Guerilla Radio," a song that includes a call for freedom for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal and denounces the "army of pigs" who try to "silence my style." Less than 30 minutes after Morello sang these lines, dozens of firefighters and police officers marched down the street in protest of Walker's legislation.
At least the song, written in 1999, is not a partisan tract. It also includes the lyrics:
More for Gore or a son of a drug lord?
None of the above
F--- it, cut the cord!
Turn that s--- up!"
Perhaps not the best song to advance the cause of strait-laced schoolteachers.