Viral Video: The View From the Front Lines of the Wisconsin Protests

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Opponents to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers protest in the State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Friday, Feb. 18, 2011.

Andy Manis / AP

See the thousands of government workers fighting for their rights with an unbridled passion.

Madison-based photographer Matt Wisniewski nestled himself among the chanting crows inside the Wisconsin statehouse to capture their enthusiasm and spirit. Government employees, particularly teachers, are sounding off against newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to cut pensions and hike health insurance rates. Walker insists the concessions are essential to plug a $3.6 billion gap in the budget.

(More on Just how dire is Wisconsin’s financial situation?)

And in Wisniewski’s vision, the rocking crowd played out like a music video. Drummers, chanters, and even a bagpiper were among those camped out in the Capitol. Appropriately, in NewsFeed’s eyes, Wisniewski set the scene to a song titled “Rebellion” – by none other than the band whose stock just keeps on rising this week: Arcade Fire (please tell us you know who they are by now).

More than 40,000 people are reported to have skipped school and work to sound off against Walker’s plan, the primary goal of which is to cut collective bargaining rights for public employees. With those rights taken away, union workers would no longer be able to negotiate for benefits and pensions, only salary. The Republican-led legislature is pushing to pass the proposal, and passionate Wisconsinites are pushing back. Conspicuously not in attendance were Wisconsin’s Democratic representatives, many of whom reportedly fled the state to avoid a vote on the bill.

(More on Who’s really to blame for the Wisconsin teachers’ crisis?)

The crowd in Madison’s Capitol Square is predicted to grow to 70,000 people today. With a larger and more boisterous protest, NewsFeed thinks the scene will outgrow the controlled indie rock sounds of Arcade Fire. Perhaps Wisniewski could tweak his soundtrack – may we suggest something angrier? NewsFeed is a fan of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” – though on second thought, the “to Party!” part might not quite fit the mood.