An estimated 100,000 people marched on the Capitol in Madison, WI, on Saturday to protest a law signed by Gov. Scott Walker last week that decreases bargaining rights for public employees throughout the state.
At least 150 of those protesters came from the North Shore, where members of the Tenth Congressional District Democrats organized a trip to Madison to join the demonstration.
"This matters to more than just people in Wisconsin," said Lauren Beth Gash, founder of the organization. "There's no question that people are worried that this kind of class warfare will spread beyond the many states it's already occurring in."
Armed with signs and a Tenth Dems banner, 24 of the 150 participants met at the parking lot in Highland Park on Saturday morning and divided into cars for the drive to Wisconsin. Once they arrived, the group joined the tens of thousands of protesters marching around the Capitol.
"This is a game-changer," Highland Park resident Herb Brenner said about the turnout. "This is saying that the Democrats really need to get out and get the word out that this is not acceptable."
The currently signed legislation that sparked the mass demonstration removes many collective bargaining rights for public employees. It also gives the state the ability to fire employees for going on strike, and makes it illegal for unions to deduct fees from their members' paychecks.
"People are concerned that other states will take away rights," Gash said.
Though the passage of this law seems like a blow to those fighting for unions, many of the protesters see their struggle as just beginning. Gash, who served in the Illinois House of Representatives for four terms, said that when it comes to legislation, "nothing is ever final."
"Often people say, 'It's already passed; it doesn't matter.' But that's not generally true in a legislative body," she said. "It's not always immediate; it's not always pleasant; it's a very messy process."
Many protesters held signs advocating the recall of Wisconsin's governor as well as the Republican state senators who supported the bill.
Also present at Saturday's demonstration were Hollywood celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and Tony Shalhoub, the star of the TV show Monk. Shalhoub introduced his sister, an educator in Green Bay, WI, during the rally. The Foo Fighters' guitarist Chris Shiflett performed a protest song during the afternoon march.
But the real celebrities were "The Fab 14," the nickname for the 14 Democratic state legislators who hid in Illinois for weeks in a failed attempt to prevent a vote on the bill.
"We ran into the mayor of Madison, and he went up to us and thanked us for housing the legislators in Illinois," said Ilya Sheyman, a Waukegan resident and member of the Tenth Dems. "It just felt like folks there appreciate us standing with them."
Sheyman echoed Gash's view that Saturday's demonstration was just the beginning.
"Everyone emphasized that what really resonated is that this isn't the end of the fight," he said. "This is the beginning of a movement."