“You can’t wait for the leadership to catch up to the people.” — Harriet Rowan, Capitol occupation organizer
About Our Film
During those brief periods in which people are roused to indignation, when they are prepared to defy the authorities to whom they ordinarily defer… [their] leaders usually do not escalate the momentum of the people’s protests. —Frances Fox Piven & Richard Cloward
Nonviolent mass insurgencies are rare, spontaneous, and unpredictable creatures. The trick is, how to make the most of one when it emerges? The 2011 Wisconsin Uprising was one such beautiful creature, a largely organic movement that united tens of thousands of people in a weeks-long public protest.
Long-time editor of the Madison-based Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild, called the Wisconsin Uprising “the single most exhilarating political experience in my life.” He was not alone. It’s hard now to describe the spirit of the protests – the positive energy and good will and camaraderie. Defeat seemed impossible; how could we fail?
How did we fail?
Divided We Fall traces the genesis of the largest sustained protest in US history – and takes a critical look at the tensions that challenged the movement’s solidarity. We combine original in-depth interviews with dramatic citizen-produced video and photos from a wide variety of sources to create a compelling narrative of resistance to the attack on collective bargaining for public workers – the first item in the austerity agenda advanced by Governor Scott Walker’s administration.
Our interviewees include graduate teaching assistants at the center of the movement as well as labor leaders, scholars and pundits such as the late Marty Beil (executive director, AFSCME Council 24), Frank Emspak (Workers Independent News), Professor Katherine Cramer (author, The Politics of Resentment) and Matthew Rothschild, long-time editor of the Progressive magazine.
Divided We Fall gets beneath the surface of the mass protests, chants, and rallies to shed light on what really happened in Madison in 2011 – with the aim of starting a dialogue about how we might succeed next time.