In February and March of 2011, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents gathered at their state capital building in Madison to protest Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill. The proposed bill would strip most of the state's public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Ironically, Wisconsin had been the first state in the union, in 1959, to grant collective bargaining rights to its employees. The bill was eventually passed, and has been followed by a series of socially conservative reforms leveled by Governor Walker and Republican lawmakers. Over 900,000 residents of Wisconsin signed recall petitions against the Governor, prompting a recall election scheduled for June 5, 2012.
Photographing protesters in a temporary sidewalk studio, my goal was to put an accurate face on those who were gathering in such great numbers to express their views. Governor Walker's spin was that many of the protesters were from out of state, and network television coverage often focused on drum circle participants inside the capital building. In truth, the large crowds gathered outside in protest were average, proud Wisconsinites: union members and not, families, teachers, firefighters, students, farmers, small business owners and retirees.