[Update at Bottom]
This camera was three weeks old. It was stripped off of my wrist, and thrown full force into the street by a crazy rightwing bastard. The card and battery are missing, which I learned when I tried to retrieve the day's photos and video. I lost the great picture of Santa in an SUV (a real beard nonetheless!), signing the Recall Walker petition (and a Santa hat. And a full Santa coat!). I lost the video of Santa and his wife talking about the damage Walker had done to their lives (with Mrs. Claus chiming in agreement!). I lost the pictures of our beautiful "Total Recall" banner, planted in the ground like a moon landing. And I lost the picture of the man attacking me right before he threw my camera to the ground.
Our crew was doing a brisk business getting signatures, with Kossacks Puddytat and Badscience, as well as friends Ty and Angela handling the steady stream of signees. Dave had gone to the busy intersection alone, so Joe and I wanted to check on him. We didn't have any signs or identifying paraphernalia, and were just chatting as we walked merrily along. I noticed that a guy up ahead had pretty aggressively pulled over his car and jumped out, moving quickly towards Dave at the corner. We were about thirty feet behind him. I warned Joe, "this doesn't look good…keep an eye on this guy!" Though he was out of earshot, he all of a sudden turned around, saw us and shouted "I'm gonna kill that motherfucker!" At that point, he clearly didn't know we were friends with the target of his death threat. I said, "Who are you talking about?" though I knew full well who he was talking about. "That asshole on the corner!" he yelled.
At that moment, I pulled out my camera. "You can't be talking like that!" I said. He came up to me, right in my face, and spitting at me told me to fuck off. He then ran on down the sidewalk a bit, stopped, yelled "Fuck you" at me and said something about the asshole on the corner had a sign with his girlfriend's name on it. Huh?
I took his picture. I shouted "I'm getting this on tape." And before I could think, he lunged at me, knocked me down, ripped the camera from my wrist, ran to the road, and threw it as hard as he could at the street. Joe ran over to help me. The man attacked Joe. Dave from the corner began running towards us. There was a big struggle. Traffic stopped. The police were called. The man zoomed off in his car. I ended up with the man's shoe.
The police came, and did an exceedingly professional job. They took our stories. They found the man elsewhere, and took his story. There will be criminal charges, and the police assure me that I will get reimbursed, at some point, for my camera. It ends up that the man not only didn't like our politics, but felt Dave's sign, which had the word Lib-rary hyphenated, was making a mockery of his ex-girlfriend's nickname "Lib." This is what set him off.
I'm not sure what would have happened to Dave alone on the corner if we had not arrived. I know what happened to me: My winter coat was ripped. My camera was destroyed. My hand is badly bruised and hurts like hell. The police left after taking all of our stories, and the three of us went back to the intersection to retrieve our signs so as not to leave litter. As we walked back, a wizened old man came up his front walk and let us know how happy he was we were hurt, and how much he hated us. He drooled positively fecal invective. Another car whizzed by and gave us the finger. Earlier, a man in a passing car slowed down and pantomimed shooting at Angela with an imaginary rifle. This is life in Walker's Wisconsin. I don't see it getting any better real soon.
But I also want to reiterate that this polarized and polarizing nightmare also includes the other side. Throughout the afternoon, we got all kinds of thumbs ups and waves and thanks from people who had even signed already. We got stories of what Walker's new policies have done to families, and after all was said and done, we got over fifty signatures for our afternoon's trauma. At our Overpass Light Brigade the night before, we had a wonderful African American man come up to us as we were leaving the pedestrian walkway. "I saw your signs from the highway, got off way down the road, and drove back to thank you and give you these hats." He presented us each with a warm knit cap, with "Wisconsin" embroidered onto the fold-back. This is it. The best of times, the worst of times. The best of people, the worst of people.
In the darkening day, Dave and Joe went back out to the intersection, because I had suggested that "when you fall off a horse, they make you get right back on!" We don't want trouble. We don't want debates. We don't want to convince anyone of anything. We merely want to give people the opportunity to sign a legally prescribed petition derived from constitutionally defined laws whose intention is to allow redress of an aggrieved population if an elected official is off the rails.
Update: Memory Card Found!
After reading this diary, my man Joe drove the twenty miles back to the site of our troubles yesterday. The memory chip was sitting in the median. The battery was in the road, crushed. I'm going to pick up the chip right now. Will Santa be Saved?
Update #2: Sadly, the chip is not functioning. It looks okay (not visibly broken) but has a "Memory Card Error" with "Card Locked." I messed with the little white switch on the card, clicking from "lock" to "unlock," but nothing worked.