About 500 Tennesseans turned out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to show solidarity with the citizens of Wisconsin. The rally was sponsored by a number of groups, including MoveOn, the Tennessee AFL-CIO, and teachers groups. Tennessee is now completely in the grip of the Republican party, and this group of old rich white people thinks that the most important thing to do is to attack their enemies: teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, and state workers.

Jerry Lee from the Tennessee AFL-CIO was one of several union people and state and local workers who talked about the improvements in the lives of people made by those who fought and died for the labor movement, the 40-hour workweek, the right to a voice in work practices, and collective bargaining.

Jeannie Alexander, a member of Amos House, a Catholic group which works with the homeless in Nashville, walked us through the brutal statistics on income and wealth inequality in the US.

The youngest speaker from a progressive group in rural Tennessee, described Martin Luther King’s passionate support of the rights of workers, including the sanitation workers in Memphis, whose strike brought him to the place of his death. He argued that economic justice is part of justice, and the correct example is the French Revolution, which was a revolt against the great disparity between rich and poor.  . . .

The speaker from Iraq Veterans Against The War handed out flyers explaining that veterans and the National Guard are public employees too:

Troops have been called out in the past against worker strikes, campus protests, and urban uprisings. However, recent events in Egypt and numerous examples from U.S, history have shown that service members have the power to side with the people and refuse to use violence against their fellow citizens. Troops activated for duty in Madison, WI will have to decide if public sector workers are really the enemy. IVAW says they are not and that troops should support workers fighting for decent jobs, wages, and benefits.

He called it “shameful” that soldiers should be called upon to attack peaceful demonstrators.

One speaker went into detail about the way rich Tennesseans have shielded themselves from taxation, and created one of the most regressive tax systems among the 50 states.

I talked to several people. Candace, a substitute teacher from Maury County, south of Nashville, was there to show her support for the teachers she works with. She says they show up at 6 or 7 in the morning because parents are dropping their kids off that early, and work late most days. They pay for supplies out of their own pockets. They deserve collective bargaining rights, and other protections. She was fully informed of the issues in Wisconsin, including the false stories about budget deficits that do not mention the massive tax cuts for Governor Scott Walker’s friends in big business. She pointed out the false concerns that divide us, including the ludicrous proposal to bar Shari’a Law here. We used to be the sane part of the South, but no more.

Others attendees told me that they were stunned at the notion that teachers and other public servants are the targets of budget cutters, when rich people aren’t paying their fair share to the state.

The rally was fairly well organized, especially given the short notice. At least one TV station was there, the local Fox affiliate, and I think the Tennessean had some people there.

Did you go to a rally? What did you see?

All pictures by Artemesia.