By Kate Elizabeth Queram Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Miles Kristan woke up Wednesday morning ready to die.
Of course, instant reanimation also was part of his plan.
Kristan, a 25-year-old photography student at Madison Area Technical College, was one of about 20 students and activists participating in a “die-in” on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday.
Participants, their faces painted gray with fake blood dripping, sprawled on the staircase facing State Street to protest $250 million in proposed cuts to higher education and a recently passed voter ID measure, both of which they say are tantamount to the “death” of voter’s rights and education
“Students are kind of getting the short end of the stick, as it were, from the Legislature,” said Matt Guidry, director of communications for the United Council of University of Wisconsin Students, a grassroots and lobbying nonprofit that organized the protest. “You’re hurting students and making education less affordable.”
Republicans have endorsed both measures, saying the cuts are necessary to help bridge a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and that voter ID will help eliminate voter fraud in the state.
To call attention to the budget cuts and the voter ID measures, a small group assembled around the sprawled protesters to eulogize education and voter’s rights.
“This voter ID bill makes it more difficult to register and vote, while necessitating an ID that many will not have reasonable access to,” read C.J. Terrell, who works for Madison nonprofit Autonomous Solidarity Organization. “But if history has taught us anything, it’s that voter’s rights can be resurrected.”
ASO is a liberal organization that says on its Facebook page that its mission is to “advocate on behalf of those in our society who do not have a voice in our government.”
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, dismissed the protesters’ claims over voter ID as less about the legislation and more about a beef with Republicans in the Legislature in general.
“It’s just a bunch of students that, if the Republicans said black, they’d say white,” he said, though he didn’t witness Wednesday’s protest. “If the Republicans said up, they’d say down.”
As Terrell finished speaking, the zombies began to growl and twitch, slowly rising from the ground to lurch around the square and into the Capitol.
Once inside, protesters looped around the rotunda, their growls of “Braaaaains,” and “College students are dead!” echoing throughout the dome as they descended on Gov. Scott Walker’s office.
Security guards kept them from entering the governor’s officer as the group shouted, “We rose from the dead to take back our education!”
The zombies ended their lurch with another pass around the square, near where Walker stood addressing a group of Special Olympians who were about to begin a ceremonial torch run.
Protesters didn’t speak to Walker, but walked to the front of the crowd to turn their backs on him, blocking the view of some of the athletes gathered to hear him speak, MacIver News Service reported.
Participants said they tried to defer to the athletes by making it a silent protest.
“We didn’t shout at him out of respect to the Special Olympics,” said Kristan, who added he was motivated to participate in the protest mostly due to the voter ID measure.
The bill “is going to take away a lot of students’ rights to vote,” he said.
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for the governor, said he would not comment on Wednesday’s protests.