A crowd that eventually grew to about 1,000 descended Tuesday evening on the block where Gov. Scott Walker and his family live in Wauwatosa, kicking off the first day of the statewide recall effort against the first-term executive almost in his own front yard.
There, organizers set up tables at the homes of several residents of the block, neighbors of Walker's, who invited people to stop by and sign recall petitions.
A handful of counter-protesters showed up as well, and some words were exchanged — not all perfectly polite — but there were no real outbreaks.
Recall advocates chanted and brought a small brass band, a few thumped drums and the bottoms of 5-gallon buckets; waved a variety of flags ranging from Old Glory to the raised fist; and drew honks from supporters in traffic.
Most, however, were just typical folks from the area; no outlandish dress or extreme ideologies, just disagreeing strongly with the governor's policies.
Vastly outnumbered but not to be outdone, some Walker supporters worked their way up and down the 500-600 block of North 68th Street like political Al Yankovics, rewriting the words or music or themes of the recallers: "No, this is what democracy looks like – boom cha-ka-laka-laka, boom cha-ka-laka-laka.... See, we couldn't afford drums before Walker."
One woman strode up 68th Street proudly carrying a broom with a flashlight strapped to it, illuminating a sign that read "Housewife for Walker."
The evening had begun, though, at 4 p.m. a few blocks away at Juneau Playfield in Milwaukee, just north of the former Juneau High School, 6415 W. Mt. Vernon Ave., and it belonged mostly to the recall advocates, organized by We Are Milwaukee (retort: "No, we are Milwaukee.").
Besides getting the word out to supportive organizations, the group had lined up plenty of volunteers to try to ensure that nothing got out of hand.
"We have 75 marshals lined up along the route, keeping people safe and focused," said Ted Kraig, of We Are Milwaukee, which organized the rally. "People aren't to linger in front of Walker's home, they're to march right to one of the petition-signing tables.
"By no means do we want anyone to get into an antagonistic situation with anyone."
At the rally, Constance Morrow of Local 150, Service Employees International Union, said: "My first topic is recall Scott Walker. Once we get him out of there, then I'm going to work on getting our collective bargaining rights back."
Julio Guerrero, a local activist speaking in his role as a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, decried the financial situation he said higher education has been put in since Walker took office and told the crowd: "We will do everything in our power to help recall Scott Walker."
Leon Burzynski, president of the Wisconsin Alliance of Retired Americans, representing 103,000 people across the state, added: "Our concerns are senior issues: the Homestead Tax Credit, cuts to transit – tens of thousands of seniors rely on public transit.
Walker "tried to cut Senior Care, and he didn't succeed at first but he's going to just let it die. A big one is FamilyCare, which allows seniors to stay in their homes instead of having to go to a nursing home," Burzynski said.
He's also perplexed over the Republicans' demand for a stricter voter ID law.
"There are 75,000 people in Wisconsin over 65 who don't have a state picture ID," he said.
Acknowledging that a lot of seniors voted for Walker, he said, "He ran for office on a dream and it turned into a nightmare."
Not everyone of any age agrees. Dan Yendrzeski drove down from Menomonee Falls to hold a sign and show his support for Walker — not intimidated by the numbers he faced.
"I support the governor and I think he's done a great job," Yendrzeski said. "The public union model, it just doesn't work anymore, even if it did in the 1950s.
"Recall elections should be reserved for misconduct in office, and they should change the law to make them harder to hold. The cost to the public – millions of dollars, and for what – they lost they election and don't like the outcome."
Keith Best of Waukesha said: "I've been in the restaurant supply business for 20 years and was a restaurant manager before that, and I was raised on and strongly support conservative principles. I believe this country swayed too far toward socialism and needs to be brought back to founding principles."
Best didn't like the whole idea of the plan behind the rally spreading out before him.
"It's thoroughly disgusting to go into somebody's residential neighborhood and single them out, I don't care who they are," he said. "Nobody on the conservative side has ever done that as far as I know."