Speakers at Democracy Convention

We are excited to provide the following list of confirmed speakers, session leaders, and artists at the 2011 Democracy Convention. This listing will be expanded and otherwise updated in advance of the convention:

CASPER STAR_TRIBUNE: University of Wyoming needs to explain why it banned Ayers

April 15, 2010

We understand the University of Wyoming's reluctance to discuss litigation against it. Bill Ayers' threat of a lawsuit for not being allowed to speak on campus will likely become a reality this morning when it's filed in federal court in Cheyenne.

But UW has a broader responsibility to explain to the public why it has banned Ayers. This action is much different than what happened earlier this month, when the UW Social Justice Research Center rescinded its invitation to Ayers to speak at a conference on education.

That decision was made by the center's director, Francisco Rios, over security concerns. News that the former radical-turned-education professor was coming to Laramie prompted hundreds of e-mails and phone calls to UW officials expressing outrage that someone with Ayers' past was invited to the university. According to Rios, some people made threats of violence. Others said they would stop donating money to UW.

More Info: 

Original editorial here...

JUNEAU EMPIRE: Alaska students protest tuition hikes

April 16, 2010
Pat Forgey

College students were quick to protest proposed tuition hikes Thursday, after University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton called for increases far exceeding the rate of inflation, citing the economic outlook and tight state budgets.

Under university policy, the president must present the tuition proposal for the year beginning in fall of 2012, with a decision on the proposal expected at the Board of Regents meeting in September of this year. That meeting will be held in Juneau.

Student government leaders quickly announced opposition to the increase, and raised questions about whether it was needed. They held a rally Thursday at the campus in Juneau.

Tyler Preston, student body president at UAS, said the increase was too big, and not sufficiently explained.

"Mostly our problem comes from the lack of transparency or understanding of where the money is going to be going," Preston said.

More Info: 

Original article here...

BURNS: Tuition-hike roundup for April 2010

May 3, 2010
Steve Burns

According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 28 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities and/or large increases in college tuition to make up for insufficient state funding, and four more states have proposed cuts but have not yet carried them out. Full report here...

Vermont: A proposal to raise University tuition by 4.8 percent brought an angry response by the state's Governor, Jim Douglas, who called the increase "excessive, and an unfair burden on struggling Vermont families." Under the proposal, tuition at Vermont State Colleges would rise 4 percent. Read more...

STEVENSON: This education is ours, so act like it

May 5, 2010
Sam Stevenson

Want to travel back in time? Drive 80 miles east to Milwaukee, park on Downer and Kenwood and walk a block west. Complementing the anachronistic architecture crowding around, the tenor of student body activism pulsating across the UW-Milwaukee campus could easily fool the most well-informed Madisonian into thinking he or she had traveled to another era, one where college students fought hard to protect and nourish their education.

The impassioned and fair demands made by UWM students last March precipitated last Thursday’s revealing panel discussion with embattled UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago. Previously, UWM’s participation in a national day of action in defense of higher education on March 4 met a rude end when administrative officials called in police to break up a passionate though peaceful demonstration. Campus and city police aggressively targeted students with pepper spray and physical violence in an effort to neutralize vociferous demands for an audience with Santiago.

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Sam Stevenson is a graduate student in public health.

Original article here...

LIU: Manski Wins Democracy on Campus

May 6, 2010
Alexander J. Liu

Making the drive up to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point once again on Monday, pro-democracy advocate and attorney Ben Manski returned to the campus he had visited in his college career. Only this time the faces had changed, but the message was the same. At 8 p.m. in the Dreyfus University Center’s Theatre, Manski delivered a multimedia presentation on “Winning Democracy,” in the hopes that it would inspire students to do just that.

“I hope that I helped to broaden some perspectives about what other students are doing around the world: what they’ve done in recent generations, that it wasn’t all just in the 60’s. I’m a little bit older, but in my generation student activists, we accomplished a lot,” said Manski. “In my experience, when people think big, they dream big and they work to accomplish those big goals. They sometimes succeed, and if you don’t try at all, then they’re not going to happen and that’s not acceptable.”

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Original article here...

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL: Rhode Island students rally against tuition hikes

May 6, 2010
Alicia A. Pina

Despite tuition increasing 46.6 percent over the last five years, professors and students at the Community College of Rhode Island say there are fewer services and not enough spots for even the mandatory core courses.

Jim Brady, the college’s outgoing student body president, said the situation — particularly the tuition hikes that don’t seem to have an end at all three of the state’s higher education institutions — is “completely disgusting” and counterproductive to helping the state build a 21st-century work force.

A call-to-action rally at the community college’s Knight Campus Wednesday afternoon was the first of several planned events to let the General Assembly know “enough is enough.” A petition is also circulating and a march to the State House is in the works.

DEMOCRACY NOW! Student Strike at University of Puerto Rico Enters 28th Day

May 17, 2010
Amy Goodman

In Puerto Rico, an ongoing strike by students at the University of Puerto Rico is coming to a head. Riot police have surrounded the main gates of the university’s main campus and are trying to break the strike by denying food and water to students who have occupied the campus inside. The strike began nearly four weeks ago in response to budget cuts at the university of more than $100 million. On Thursday, a mass assembly of more than 3,000 students voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike. The next day, riot police seized control of the main campus gates. We go now to Puerto Rico, inside the occupied campus at the university.

MURRAY: Eastern Michigan students celebrate tuition freeze

May 20, 2010
Dave Murray

Eastern Michigan University students celebrated their school’s decision to hold the line on tuition and fees hikes at an all-campus picnic Thursday, and gathered for a photo — with a message.

EMU photographer Randy Mascharka took the shot from the roof of the Ypsilanti campus’ Student Center.

Eastern President Susan Martin told me last month that she knows the university is taking a risk by not asking students for more money at a time when state aid could be slipping and busing expenses continue to rise.

PUERTO RICO DAILY SUN: Students’ win in University of Puerto Rico confict

June 17, 2010

Wednesday, after a heated debate among  members of the Board of Trustees, a consensus on language was finally reached.

 INS learned that the intervention of trustee and UPR ex President Norman Maldonado, was key in convincing Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees Ygrí Rivera, to drop her consistent hard line regarding the application of penalties to the strikers. Maldonado had not previously intervened because he was off the island.

“Maldonado and Rivera had strong encounters; he favored the student’s language, while she maintained her position of not bargaining,” a source told INS.

More Info: 

Original article here...

MERCURY NEWS: CA cities vote to pay more taxes to help schools

June 26, 2010
Terence Chea

To help protect their schools from California's unrelenting budget crisis, some communities are voting to pay more property taxes to preserve teacher jobs, smaller class sizes and electives such as art and music.

So far this year, more than 20 districts have held elections for school parcel taxes, which are levied on individual parcels of property, and at least 16 have approved them. More districts are trying to place such measures on the ballot later this year.

But the tax measures, which require a two-thirds majority to pass, are mostly winning approval in smaller, wealthier districts, according to education experts, raising worries about growing inequality between schools in rich and poor communities.

NOLAN: The Top Ten Universities for Student Debt

August 24, 2010
Hamilton Nolan

For-profit" colleges have come under fire for saddling students with big debts in exchange for dim job prospects. But what about "real" colleges? They're pushing huge debts on students, too. We crunched the numbers to find the worst (NYU).

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THE NATION: Students active leaders in fight to oppose WI budget "repair' bill

February 15, 2011
Sara Jerving

Protests have engulfed the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where students are standing against a proposed bill that threatens teacher's unions. The outcries come as the state's new Republican Governor Scott Walker announced a plan to end collective bargaining for most of the state's 175,000 public employees.

BREAKING: Legislative committee recommends cuts to WI Arts Board

May 6, 2011
Patti Wenzel
news photo

The Joint Finance Committee voted today to end the independent agency status of the Wisconsin Arts Board, moving the oversight of arts to the Tourism Board. The proposal will now go before the State Assembly and Senate for final approval as part of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget. The vote was along party lines with 14 Republicans voting in favor and four Democrats voting against.

The committee did restore some of the cuts Walker proposed, returning over $350,000 to the agency over the next two years. The Board was facing a drop from $3 million to $750,000; now it will have just over $1 million in the next budget period.

The JFC also reversed Walker by allowing the Arts Board the autonomy to select its own executive director in the future.

RELEASE: As faith in system crumbles, organizers to announce launch of new U.S. Democracy Movement

August 1, 2011
Liberty Tree


As faith in U.S. political system hits historic lows, organizers announce that

(MADISON, WI) ~ The eyes of the nation will return to Madison, Wisconsin, August 24-28, as nearly 1,000 community, labor, and student organizers gather at the first Democracy Convention to launch a movement to bring democracy to the United States.

Cheri Honkala to keynote Democracy Convention

August 1, 2011
Liberty Tree
Cheri Honkala photo

With the Democracy Convention beginning in 23 days, we are please to announce our second keynote speaker: Cheri Honkala. She joins Tom Hayden and Michelle Shocked in headlining five days of celebration, strategy, and community-building. 

FOR YOUR EARS ONLY: "Democracy, U.S.A."

August 7, 2011
David Alpern & Kathryn Herzog

Ben Manski discusses the 2011 Democracy Convention with "For Your Ears Only." To download this radio interview, see: . . . Or listen online at

Segment comes on at 19:30 . . .


Ben Manski, Executive Director, Liberty Tree Foundation, Democracy Convention chairman

Show Date: 

Thom Hartmann & Ben Manski: Fighting Back Against Citizens United

August 10, 2011

Radio talk show host Thom Hartmann meets Ben Manski, Chair-Democracy Convention / Executive Director of Liberty Tree / Spokesperson for Move to Amend. They show us how to fight back against plutocrats who want to buy elected officials.

John Nichols discusses the significance of the August 9th recalls

August 15, 2011
John Nichols

Five months to the day after the Republican majority in the Wisconsin state Senate voted to approve Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, two of the governor’s most prominent allies in the chamber have been removed from office.

Western Wisconsin state Sen. Dan Kapanke and eastern Wisconsin Sen. Randy Hopper were both defeated in recall elections that provided a powerful indication of the state’s anger with Walker’s assault on worker rights.

WDC: Voters act to rein in extremism

August 17, 2011
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Wisconsin voters have shown time and time again that they are not extremists. Voters in largely Republican areas of the state sent a message in recent days that the actions of those in charge of state government have been too extreme by voting for greater moderation.

In unprecedented state senate recall elections, the number of legislators removed from office in this manner over the 163-year history of Wisconsin was doubled in a single summer. A third of Republican senators targeted for recall were ousted, while two others narrowly survived election-day scares. All three of the targeted Democratic senators were returned to office by comfortable margins.

NICHOLS: Mitt Romney, Dark Prince of Oligarchy, Battles the Demons of Democracy

August 20, 2011
John Nichols


The gaffe-prone candidacies of Michele “Elvis” Bachmann and Rick “C’mon, Men, Let’s String Us Up Some Bernanke” Perry, and the slapstick non-candidacy of Sarah “Two If by Sea” Palin, are merely the cheap theater of an ill-defined Republican presidential race. The real drama of the 2012 race continues to come from the CEO party’s CEO candidate: Willard Mitt Romney.

Welcome to the 2011 Democracy Convention

August 23, 2011
Ben Manski


The Isthmus previews the Democracy Convention

August 23, 2011
Judith Davidoff

The timing could not be better, but organizers say plans for this week's Democracy Convention in Madison were set before Gov. Scott Walker's introduction of his collective bargaining bill and the ensuing protests that led some to compare the uprising in Wisconsin to democratic rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia.

ISTHMUS: Democracy Convention kicks off, boosted by Wisconsin Capitol protests

August 23, 2011
Judith Davidoff

The timing could not be better, but organizers say plans for this week's Democracy Convention in Madison were set before Gov. Scott Walker's introduction of his collective bargaining bill and the ensuing protests that led some to compare the uprising in Wisconsin to democratic rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia.

MJS: Democracy Convention under way in Madison

August 24, 2011
Bill Glauber

The first Democracy Convention got under way Wednesday, and the five-day gathering is expected to draw up to 1,000 political and social activists from across the country.

The convention brought together at least two generations of left-wing activists ready to hash out such issues as voting rights, access to education and U.S. constitutional reform.

Tom Hayden, a key figure in anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam era, was among the scheduled keynote speakers. The convention was organized by Ben Manski, a 37-year-old Madison attorney and former co-chairman of the national Green Party.

WSJ: Madison convention focuses on strengthening democracy

August 24, 2011
Deborah Ziff

There may be no other convention where you can learn about the history of civil disobedience, go to a class called Organizing 101, and discuss how to make a general strike succeed.

The first ever Democracy Convention will be held in Madison Wednesday through Sunday.

"It's the first national gathering in my lifetime that has focused on the underlying question of who rules," said Ben Manski, former co-chair of the Green Party of the U.S. and an event organizer. "[It] is not just interested in criticizing the lack of democracy in the United States but is devoted toward strengthening the movement to achieve the American promise of democracy."

WRN AUDIO: Event Focuses on Democracy

August 25, 2011
Brian Moon

AUDIO: Soglin full speech (14:30)

Labor supporters go from the streets and into breakout sessions at the Democracy Convention in Madison. Mayor Paul Soglin kicked off the event reflecting on this year’s massive protests and continued fight against changes by Governor Walker and the Republican majority. He says until then the public was not paying enough attention.

“We cannot rest and assume that others are going to take care of our society,” says Soglin.

TCT: Cheri Honkala rallies audience at Democracy Convention

August 26, 2011
Pat Schneider


Say what you want about Take Back the Land-Madison, whose members have occupied a handful of foreclosed properties to protest public policies that put families out on the street. Their tactics are audacious, if nothing else. It's a brand of activism with the power to rally the allies and antagonize opponents.

Democracy Convention draws 1,000 to Madison, plans next steps

September 1, 2011
Judith Davidoff
Clad in a tiara, long dress and sash reading "Do You Miss Democracy?" Mary Zepernick approached a table at the Memorial Union Terrace Saturday night with a question clearly on her mind. "Do you miss democracy?" she asked the group. "I do."
It was a bit of street theater, Zepernick, 71, explained the next day in a phone interview. "It's a way to catch the attention of people, to just shake up their minds a little."

MJS: WI leads nation in cuts to public education

September 6, 2011
Jason Stein

Madison - Wisconsin leads the country so far in cuts to state aid for schools, a new report shows.

The study by the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities looked at the 24 states where the budget data is available.

Wisconsin cut school aid by $635 per pupil this year, topping other states including New York, California and Ohio, according to the report. Over the past four years, the state's annual aid to schools is down $776 per pupil after adjusting for inflation, putting Wisconsin at fourth in the country so far in cuts.

KC ACTIVE: On hand at the Democracy Convention in Madison

September 9, 2011
Mary Lindsay

For some, there wasn’t a better venue for America’s first Democracy Convention than the in-your-face capitol of local democracy, Madison, Wisconsin — a state with a long history of progressive sensibilities. Earlier this years thousands of protesters converged upon the capitol in response to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority’s decision to end collective bargaining for public employees — a fight that is not over and one leading to a test of Walker’s reelection capability.

BOYER: Stewart Acuff is fighting for labor and our democracy

September 14, 2011
Joanne Boyer

"The only thing we can do is to choose whether we fight for rights of people, freedom and democracy or whether we sit it out on the sidelines."  ~ Stewart Acuff, Utility Workers Union of America

The discussion of workers' rights, the assault on organized labor, and the conversation of what it all means has never been a hotter topic as we approach Labor Day 2011.  

PRWATCH: Local Ordinances and Land Grabs: Democracy Convention Panels Discuss Food Sovereignty

September 14, 2011
Rebekah Wilce

Attendees of the Democracy Convention in Madison in late August were treated to panels on a host of different issues, from democratic media to racial inequality. The Center for Media and Democracy was one of the sponsors of the convention, and our own Lisa Graves and Brendan Fischeraddressed democracy activists.

ALPEROVITZ: America's Massive Wealth Disparity

September 15, 2011
Karen Rybold-Chin

In the United States, the richest 400 people own more collective wealth than the bottom 150 million. As historian and writer Gar Alperovitz puts it, this is quite literally medieval. America's distribution of wealth is controlled by corporations and the extremely wealthy—if there is to be real social change, this gaping inequality needs to be addressed and radically altered. The people need to take the pain of the laborers affected by politicians such as Governor Scott Walker and unite around this as something to replace with progressive reforms. 

ALPEROVITZ: The Environmental Movement's Civil Disobedience

September 15, 2011
Karen Rybold-Chin

Civil disobedience is a transformation of consciousness, a sudden revelation that something new must be done. It is the knowledge that there are two options: disrupt and change the system or remain silent in the face of injustice. Right now, civil disobedience is emerging from the anti-war and environmental movements in significant ways, most notably around opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

HONKALA: No American Should Be Poor

September 15, 2011
Karen Rybold-Chin

It's easy to subscribe to the belief that America doesn't have enough resources for everyone to enjoy a high standard of living. But Cheri Honkala, one of the leading figures in the movement against poverty, said at the Liberty Tree Foundation's Democracy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin that this is a false message.

VIDEO: The Uptake & WORT provide video from the Democracy Convention

September 16, 2011
Cristalyne Bell, Patrick Waring, Norm Stockwell, Sarah Manski & more

For video coverage of the 2011 Democracy Convention, recorded by volunteers and convention staff, and posted at The Uptake, click here:

More Info: 

These videos range in quality, but most are easy to follow. Additional videos are posted, and will continue to be added as they become available, at

VIDEO & AUDIO: Extensive coverage of Democracy Convention by WisconsinEye

September 16, 2011

WisconsinEye is the C-Span of Wisconsin's civil society. The folks at WisconsinEye video recorded 18 different sessions at the 2011 Democracy Convention. They may be watched or listened to for free on their website, or purchased for download, here:


PRESS TV: US in a Revolutionary Period

October 6, 2011
Interview with Edward Spannaus



Press TV:  Edward Spannaus, why don't you tell us your impression of these movements? I mean, they are obviously gaining momentum. Tell us why? And of course we see Occupy Wall Street as being one of them that has inspired other movements.

 Spannaus: Well, I would actually go back to the spring when you had the mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, in Indiana, in Ohio and at that time also you had demonstrations in hundreds of cities in support of the trade unionists and when you had governors of those states trying to break the unions.