Wisconsin university teaching assistants at forefront of Capitol protest

Reporting from Madison, Wis.

The protests that rocked Madison over the last month drew union members and students — but some key figures in the mobilizations were both.

Members of the Teaching Assistants’ Assn. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison spearheaded the two-week occupation of the Capitol that began Feb. 15 — two days before Democratic senators fled the state to stall legislation limiting public employees’ union rights. The students helped organize food and other supplies for the makeshift overnight campground in the rotunda.

“While a lot of unions brought people in volume, I don’t know if anyone else brought them in as continually and consistently,” Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan said.

The efforts were in keeping with the association’s roots. The group was born of Vietnam War-era student activism. Some of its members are seasoned organizers. For others, the recent efforts have been a transformative experience.

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