The Post-It Manifesto

Back in early 2011 our newly-installed governor decided to crush public employee unions as part of an austerity campaign. Many of us fought back. During the struggle, our state capitol was locked down. This was a nearly unprecedented moment in Wisconsin history. The capitol had long been an open, public space. With locked doors, we gathered outside as we sought to assert our right to access our halls of government. Some friends and I decided people should have a way to mark their presence. The Open Capitol project was born.

Sticky notes, pens, and a lot of frustration led to a few days during which the capitol doors were plastered with reminders of the people whom our government is supposed to serve.

As part of the project I penned a little piece to express our intent, endearingly title the Post-It Manifesto:


We Will Be Heard

This is the moment of vibrant clamor. This is the moment to be seen and heard.

This is the moment of experimentation and to remember that with the smallest acts we can create the largest impacts.

* * *

We were denied access to our state’s capitol and cut off from legislative process and conversation. The closure was an act of implied violence. It was an effort to garrote significant popular dissent. We could have responded in several ways.

We could have accepted the governor’s claim and walked away, but to do so would have been to accept the lie that the governor has the right to silence us.

We could have met threat with threat and attempted to take the capitol with renewed force. Such a response, however, would have justified the governor’s initial decision to suppress us in advance.

We could have simply waited for something to give under the tension of opposing forces. Such implied inability to act would have been the worst of all possible outcomes.

* * *

We asked how we might focus a broad appeal that might otherwise be scattered and lost. We asked how we could maintain individual voice within a broad din. We asked how we could remember that we all have the right to speak, to be heard, and to take an active role in our lives.

Our experiment was simple: individual notes from individual people affixed to whatever was limiting their voice. Pads and pens. A colored scrap served as a canvas for expression. One thousand scraps became a shared demand.

From a distance it forms a pop tableau of startling contrast. Against the monochrome exterior of rigid process we find a technicolor display of human passion. Up close, single voices ring out in penetrating tones and remind us that we are as unique as we are similar. They linger beyond the roar of momentary crowds. In silent nights they remain for continued reflection.

We do not have to speak in unison. We cannot speak with one voice. We will only speak out to the world and declare:

“I was here.”

“This is my voice.”







We watch @OpenCapitol on Twitter and OpenCapitolWI on Facebook for messages.

We can be contacted through these channels.