M.D. Kittle, MADISON — They’re as mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!
Thousands of frustrated Wisconsinites turned out Friday afternoon for a ReOpen Wisconsin rally at the Capitol. They came even though the Evers administration denied event organizers a permit. They came even as government officials and members of the mainstream media labeled them as right-wing extremists, even murderers.
They came to demand their state back.
“We want Wisconsin back open,” said Tom Kienitz, who demonstrated Friday with his wife, Trish, and their son. Like many, they carried their message on their cardinal and white protest sign. “We think there are a lot of people who are hurting; they’ve been out of work for way too long.”
Tom, who works in the health care industry, said he and his seven-member staff are facing a reduction in hours in the coming days, even as it’s supposed to be all hands on deck to battle the COVID-19 threat.
“We need to stop the devastation for families, businesses and communities,” said Trish Kienitz. She said she leans more left than her husband, who describes himself as an Independent. Many at the event said, despite the narrative of the usual suspects, the rally was much less about politics than it was about constitutional rights.
Wisconsin’s estimated unemployment rate approached 18 percent this week, nearly double the peak jobless rate in the Great Recession. Nearly 500,000 people have been forced to the unemployment line since the novel coronavirus social-distancing orders started going into effect in March.
A speaker at Friday’s rally noted what he described as “Tony’s tombstones,” or all the businesses that have closed under Evers’ public emergency edicts.
Heather Siegel and her son Luke, from Waukesha, said the lockdown has caused too much pain and suffering.
“I’m here because I feel my rights have been violated,” said Luke, who waved a yellow and black Don’t Tread on Me flag. He said his father is one of the many suffering with “excruciating pain” because his varicose vein surgery is considered “elective” under the COVID-19-first medical guidelines.
The Segel family business is retail, a sector hit extremely hard. Heather Siegel wore a sandwich board sign. On the front it declared, “Don’t Kill My Business. Open Wisconsin.” On the back, “#BigBox Wins #LittleBox Loses,” a reference to what many small businesses owners believe has been the disproportionate impact of the Safer at Home edicts.
Most galling, according to a Waukesha-area physician and small business owner, is the belief by too many, particularly in the government, that those who stand up for the safe resumption of business in Wisconsin are evil or crazy.
“This is not a two-sided argument where one side gets to say we’re saving lives and anyone who disagrees with us is a selfish, greedy jerk who doesn’t care about lives,” he said. What of the growing number of serious medical conditions, the untreated illnesses, the rise in depression, the suicides because of lost jobs and incomes in a COVID-19-centric world, the physician asked.
Luke Siegel, the young man who has watched his father in agonizing pain, says he’s tried to step in and help his family business where he can. But he wonders how much more his family and so many others can take.
“It’s truly disgusting to see so many liberties taken right out of their hands,” he said.