the revenge of the balloons


a short story on this eve of the historic Wisconsin Recall elections:

Once upon a time (on February 14, 2011, to be exact), hundreds of UW students, faculty, and staff created the very first protest against Scott Walker's proposed bill to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. They marched to the Wisconsin Capitol and hand-delivered thousands of Valentine cards expressing support for teachers statewide.

Is it any wonder that a red mylar heart balloon became the symbol of a peaceful protest movement that grew and grew? A single, mysterious heart-shaped red balloon floated high inside the Capitol dome for many months.

When that symbolic balloon disappeared one day recently, others were released to take its place. Those balloons were removed by the Capitol staff. Then on July 25 in the Capitol, in a bizarre incident, a woman carrying a red heart balloon was attacked by a state worker who tried to pop the balloon with a knife. Long time DOA Facilities Assistant Director Ron Blair has been arrested in connection with the incident. (Ironically, Leslie Amsterdam, the victim of the attack, is the designer of this prophetic Wisconsin broken heart pin and matching t-shirts.)

The day after the brutal balloon-stabbing, about a hundred heart-broken balloons showed up in solidarity with Leslie and the slain balloon during the noon hour Solidarity Sing Along. (Click here for video of the colorful scene.)

"I think the Capitol balloon symbolizes the solidarity that Wisconsinites are feeling, and our love for the Capitol," says Nicole Schulte, who provided the photos for this story. "The balloon is a symbol of our fight."

We’ve come a long way since February 14. And tomorrow we’ll show some more of our fight as we cast our votes in the recalls.

Carrie Scherpelz is a freelance graphic designer here in Madison. She’s always asking the question: “What motivates people to take action?” Her keen observations of human behavior help her create compelling communication that gets results. As a designer, photographer, and writer, she has an integrated approach that will help you increase your direct marketing response rates.

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