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Milwaukee: Hundreds march against the Republican primary debate despite record 100-plus degree heat

By staff

Protest at the Republican debates in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee, WI – Nearly 400 people marched in the streets of Milwaukee on the evening of August 23 in protest of the first Republican presidential primary debate. Chants like “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, GOP, go away!” and “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose city? Our city!” rang out as marchers ignored the 100-plus degree heat.

The debate comes just under a year before the GOP returns to the city for the 2024 Republican National Convention. The action was organized by the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, a broad-based progressive network of different local and national organizations opposed to the Republican agenda which attacks trans people, immigrants, workers, education and the democratic rights of oppressed nationalities.

The action started with a rally at Red Arrow Park, known to activists in the city as Dontre Hamilton Park in honor of Hamilton, who was murdered by Milwaukee police there in 2014.

“The Republican candidates are in there debating whether or not we deserve rights, whether we deserve bodily autonomy, and whether or not the U.S. should bomb other countries or just coup them. We stand out here to say we fight back,” said Aurelia Ceja, co-chair of the Coalition to March on the RNC.

“They have tried to make Wisconsin their playground, and Milwaukee has fought back with a vengeance. The Republican-created Act 12 was a direct attack on Milwaukee for the work we have done in fighting for police transparency and accountability,” Ceja continued. “This is part of the Republican national agenda. It’s a reactionary agenda. They saw our power when we came together in 2020, and they have been working to overturn our gains. This is because the Republicans are scared, and they should be.”

Many of the organizations that make up the coalition had speakers to kick off the event. These organizations included Voces de la Frontera, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, and Reproductive Justice Action Milwaukee (RJAM).

“Republicans are not actually pro-life. They’re pro-controlling people’s bodies and they want forced pregnancy. They don’t support free healthcare, they don’t support social safety nets, they don’t support workers' right to a living wage. Our society is not sustainable, most of us can barely afford to live but they want more workers to serve the rich,” said Catie Petralia with RJAM. “Republicans are not pro-life, but they are pro-war, pro-prisons, pro-capitalism.”

The keynote was special guest Chrisley Carpio of the Tampa 5, a group of activists who were assaulted by police in Tampa, Florida during a protest against HB 999 which slashed DEI programs in public universities across the state.

“We’re not gonna sell out the student movement, we’re not gonna say it was wrong to protest DeSantis and the Republicans – just like everyone here is doing – and they took our four felony counts and turned them into eight, and they took my five years and turned them into ten, so it’s clearly a political attack by the Republicans on our right to protest, but it’s not gonna work!” Carpio said. “One week later, students in Texas and at other universities across the state of Florida had protests, including at Florida International University where 700 students protested against HB 999, showing that this didn’t work. The only thing that the Republicans did in attempting to stop us was lighting a fire that’s gonna take down their whole agenda!”

The march route took the protesters right next to the Fiserv Forum, home of both the first debate as well as next year’s RNC. Other chants took aim at specific candidates, such as “Donald Trump is MIA! Milwaukee says stay away!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Ron DeSantis has got to go!”

The march wound around the debate venue and back to Red Arrow Park where a second batch of speakers shared their own messages. Groups speaking included the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, Community Task Force MKE, Never Again Action, the Milwaukee Anti-war Committee, and the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.

The Coalition to March on the RNC will continue to organize in the months leading up to the convention in 2024. They are encouraging all organizations across the U.S. who recognize the Republicans as one of the main enemies of working and oppressed peoples to join the coalition. A national organizing conference is being planned for February 2024 in Milwaukee as a prelude to the mass protest scheduled for the first day of the RNC on July 15, 2024.

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