‘Don’t hide! Override!’ Protestors interrupt Wasilla holdouts on day of veto overrides

Protestors outside the Wasilla Middle School on July 10, 2019. (Photo courtesy Mackenzie Pope)

The scene at Wasilla Middle School today, as dozens of protestors interrupted the already-farcical floor sessions being held by 22 holdout legislators, was probably not what Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy had in mind when he called a special session in his hometown under the name of broader access to Alaskans.

“Don’t hide! Override!” protestors chanted in videos of the demonstration posted to social media by Anchorage Daily News reporter Tegan Hanlon as the so-called “22 Strong” attempted to meet in the middle school’s gymnasium.

Outside protesters had chained themselves to the front doors in a symbolic act of protest while other protestors, mostly women and people of color, took over the pantomime of a floor session by sitting in legislators’ seats and taking over the podium.

In the videos posted by Hanlon, legislators can be seen smirking at the protestors and as legislators walked out House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt could be seen snapping a selfie as protestors pleaded with them to return to Juneau and help override some $400 million in vetoes that hit everything from homelessness services and senior benefits to the University of Alaska and public broadcasting.

The demonstration was organized by Defend the Sacred AK, Alaska Rising Tide, Fireweed Collective, Alaskans Take a Stand, Native Movement and the Poor People’s Campaign.

The attitudes were unsurprising as the group has seemed hellbent on ignoring and dismissing the input of Alaskans, even going so far as to write off a rally that drew thousands on the eve of the veto because it was headlined by popular Alaska-grown band Portugal. The Man.

“I think Portugal. The Man will draw people to the Alaska Airlines Center that really probably don’t care much about the veto overrides underway. They just want to hear a great band,” said Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer.

Others were similarly dismissive, but had they seen the event themselves they would have seen people deeply engaged while speakers—almost entirely women and people of color—talked about the impacts of the cuts and see the crowd actually thin out as the band began to play. They would have seen people from all walks of life, from more than just Anchorage and many young people ask for legislators to have a heart and listen.

Instead, protestors at the Wasilla Middle School were met with smirks, selfies and spin before legislators fled the room.

Debate on the vetoes began in Juneau at 11:30 a.m. without enough members to override the vetoes.

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