MADISON, WIS. – For the past week, the protests outside of the Wisconsin statehouse have had a background soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen, Journey and even the Beastie Boys blasting from speakers as marchers walk around chanting “Kill the bill!” and “Recall Walker!” But on Monday, Madison will get some live music — a concert headlined by Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine.
For nearly a decade, Morello has also been playing political folk music — inspired by people like Woodie Guthrie and Mother Jones — under the alias The Nightwatchman. On his Facebook page, fans had been urging him to come out and support them in Madison before he made his announcement.
“Hey Tom, could you please come to Madison?” read a message by a fan named Mike Loew. “As I’m sure you’re aware, Scott Walker is trying essentially to de-unionize.”
“Tom, please come to Madison!” read another posting by Mike Tapia. “The national news are not covering this the way they should be. We need your voice! To get on the national front. First person I thought of writing to was President Obama, which I did, at a close second came you!”
In an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday, Morello explained that the fight for collective bargaining rights is personal for him. He’s a member of Professional Musicians Local 47 in Los Angeles, and his mother worked at a public high school in Illinois for more than 30 years.
“I really think that the future of the rights of working people in this country is not going to be decided in the courts,” he said. “It’s not going to be decided in Congress or radio talk shows. The future of rights of working people in this country will be the fight on the streets of Madison, Wis. “
On Saturday, Morello said he also received an e-mail of encouragement from one of the principle organizers of the protests in Cairo, Maor Eletrebi. “Madison is the next Cairo,” observed Morello. He said Eletrebi wanted him to share his message with the protesters, which was addressed to “our friends in Madison, Wis.”
“I wish you could see firsthand the change we have made here,” read Eletrebi’s e-mail, which Morello read to The Huffington Post. “Justice is beautiful, but justice is never free. The beauty of Tahrir Square you can have everywhere, on any corner, in any city, or in your heart. So hold on tightly and don’t let go. … Breathe deep, Wisconsin, because justice is in the air. And may the spirit of Tahrir Square be in every beating heart in Madison today.”
Morello said he was willing to play in Indiana, Ohio, or any other state fighting for workers’ rights. “Wherever The Nightwatchman is needed, The Nightwatchman will be,” he said.
Morello has been closely following the controversy in Wisconsin and was excited to hear that the statehouse in Madison was still loud and energetic with protesters. He was skeptical of Gov. Scot Walker’s (R) assertion that restricting the collective bargaining rights of public employees was necessary to fill the state’s deficit, noting that he supported millions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations.
“So clearly, the issue isn’t the state budget,” said Morello. “It’s breaking the right of working people to stand up to corporate power. That’s what they want to do, and that’s what we’re not going to let them do.”
Monday’s concert is being organized by the labor organizations on the ground, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and SEIU.
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