Wisconsin Wave

Uniting Wisconsinites for democracy and shared prosperity

This is an archived version of the Wisconsin Wave website.

Liberty Tree’s approach to achieving social change is rooted in the long history of pro-democracy movements in the Americas, as well as the more recent anti-corporate, pro-democracy campaigns of the 1990s. For a discussion of the continuing importance of the movements and organizing of the 1990s, including the Democracy Teach-Ins and the Program on Corporations Law and Democracy, read two articles: Seattle Uprising Still a Force in World Events, 15 Years Later and The Democratic Turn of the Century: Learning from the U.S. Democracy Movement, both authored by Liberty Tree founder Ben Manski. 

The first planning meetings that led to the founding of Liberty Tree occurred in 1999, in the buildup to the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Over the next five years, some of those who were to become part of the first generation of Liberty Tree’s leadership coordinated five projects:

1999: The Olympia Round Meeting on Corporations and Democracy took place December 3-5 at the campus of Evergreen State University immediately following the Battle in Seattle against the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Olympia Round was conceived as an alternative to the WTO’s so-called “Seattle Round” meeting. It brought together 60 leading activists and media intellectuals from across North America. Much of the documentary film, The Corporation, was shot at the Olympia Round Meeting. 

2001: Democracy Summer took place in the aftermath of the presidential election of 2000 in Tallahassee, Florida, June 17-23, as an organizing and training program for a new wave of votings rights and pro-democracy activists.

2002: Cities for People! was a national coalition of twenty seven community, youth, labor, religious, political, and other civic organizations dedicated to offering an alternative, democratic agenda for the nation’s largest cities. Cities for People! organized mass demonstrations protesting corporate involvement in setting the priorities of the June, 2002, annual national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Cities for People! also organized a conference on progressive municipal policy as an alternative the official mayors’ meeting. 

2002: Community Power 2002: First International Conference on Local Democracy drew participants from 25 states and six countries. Panelists described the lessons of experiments in local democracy conducted in Montevideo (Uruguay), Porto Alegre (Brazil), Manchester (England), San Francisco, Arcata (CA), rural Pennsylvania, Hartford, and Madison. The purpose of this conference was to educate citizens, community leaders, and elected officials about groundbreaking initiatives in local democracy around the world, including participatory budgeting, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), citizen town halls, and community-driven  economic policy.

In the summer of 2004, Liberty Tree incorporated as a non-stock corporation in Madison, Wisconsin, organized and coordinated Liberty Tree’s first project, the  No Stolen Elections! campaign, and began approaching others about joining the Liberty Tree team. In 2005, Liberty Tree launched its website and issued the first edition of the  Liberty Tree Journal.

The Democracy Movement