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Saturday, April 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 55.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Milwaukee's Fred Kessler says Capitol protests are familiar


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State Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) has a rare perspective among his colleagues in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Although only elected to his current post in 2004, Kessler originally served from 1960 to 1962 and again from 1964 to 1970. To him, these protests feel very familiar.

"This reminds me of that era, when people were genuinely excited and absolutely committed to doing the right thing," says Kessler. "I'm sensing that now."

For this reason, Kessler is emphatic on one point: people need to come back to the capitol Monday and Tuesday.

"Frankly," says Kessler, "the presence of people and the electric effect it has keeps us going. It feeds us."

Kessler says he and other Assembly members are "getting pressured. … Why are you fighting this? You're gonna lose," but that the presence of people in the capitol lends strength to them, and to Senate Democrats as well.

It even, suggests Kessler, might push Republicans to see things their way.

"What I'm thinking is that at some point it's going to convince some people to break, including some Republicans that didn't agree with it in the first place," he says.

Kessler says he has tried to impress the importance of this moment on his fellow Assembly members.

"I've been telling them: This is the most important experience you're going to have in public life in the next half century," he says. "This is going to be the defining moment for you."

Kessler has been visiting the rotunda's first and second-floor protestors, urging them to come back Monday and Tuesday.

"I'm trying to encourage them to keep going because they're giving us the strength to fight," says Kessler. "Their presence keeps us going toward victory."

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