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Red Wing firefighter joins protests in Madison

Brian Suter and his father, John, protest with other firefighters Feb. 25 inside the Wisconsin Capitol. Brian Suter said being in the Capitol was "empowering."1 / 2
Brian and John Suter join firefighters from across Wisconsin to march to the Wisconsin Capitol with drums and bagpipes. Brian Suter described the atmosphere in Madison as "peaceful and positive."2 / 2

Brian Suter says he's never really thought of himself as a political person. But the Red Wing firefighter and paramedic has firmly planted himself on one side of a very political issue.

This weekend, Suter will make his second trip to Madison, Wis., to join people protesting Gov. Scott Walker's bill limiting public unions' collective bargaining rights.

"I think the big reason that people are really standing up to this ... (is that) people are having their rights infringed on," Suter said.

Suter, who moved to Red Wing two years ago, was born in Wisconsin and raised just outside of Madison. His father, John, has been a Madison firefighter for 30 years and his sister teaches school in Wisconsin.

While Suter is concerned about the direct impact of Walker's bill on his family, he says it goes further than that.

"What happens there is going to have a domino effect," he said. "(It) will affect union people across the country."

On Wednesday, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill limiting collective bargaining rights, and union rights have been the topic of discussion in New Jersey.

Daily march

Firefighters from across Wisconsin have been gathering each morning and marching to the Capitol with bagpipes and drums, Suter said.

Last Friday, Suter joined his father and other firefighters in this daily march. Though the Capitol has since been limiting the number of people allowed inside, there were no restrictions in place last Friday.

"Everyone was cheering (when we got inside)," Suter said. "It was really an empowering experience - being a part of something and standing together."

Suter left Thursday afternoon for his second trip to Madison. He says he probably won't be able to get back inside the Capitol building, but will join family and friends protesting outside.

"It's all very peaceful, very positive," he said. "But at the same time, people are angry and upset."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.