Hundreds of remaining protesters allowed to stay in Capitol - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Hundreds of remaining protesters allowed to stay in Capitol

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Capitol was closed Sunday evening at 4 PM, but protesters stayed.

Police had said the Capitol needed to be cleared out Sunday by 4 PM in order to clean it after two weeks of protests.

But many protesters said they wouldn't leave, and were willing to be arrested for the cause.

Earlier Sunday, it was anyone's guess as to how the day would play out, as hundreds made it well-known they would resist leaving the Capitol, at least on their own accord.

Police began monitoring the number of people inside the Capitol early Sunday, forming lines to the street.

Ty Bender, a teacher at the protests, said, "I don't think it's right. I think we should be able to get into the house, as long as we want to be in the house."

Protesters in the rotunda prepared for what they said would be a peaceful resistance, raising peace signs with their hands.

Kyle Williams, a UW student, was one of those who said he wouldn't go. Williams said, "I plan to go stand there; I won't leave when they ask me to leave... Regardless of the consequences, I'm going to stay here."

As the four p-m deadline came and went.. police watched the crowd thin.

After a few hours of peaceful protests, police let the hundreds that remained inside camp out for a thirteenth night.

No arrests were made.

There were some guidelines for those who chose to stay: the protesters had to sleep on the first floor, so the other floors could be cleaned.

If anyone left, including media for a while Sunday, they were not allowed back in.

The Capitol will re-open on Monday for its normal business hours starting at 8:00 a.m. As has been done all week, Capitol Police will be monitoring the number of people in the building.

Beginning Saturday, people will not be allowed to carry blankets or sleeping bags into the building.

Capitol Police officials and protest organizers have also agreed that individuals should remove and take with them any signs that they wish to keep.

Capitol Police officials have spoken with and worked closely with the organizers of protest groups at the Capitol, who have agreed to voluntarily remove their items from the building.

On Monday, the building will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and cleaning crews will continue their work throughout the day. Normal business hours (Mon.-Fri. 8:00 am - 6:00 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.) will continue.


MADISON (WKOW, AP) --  Those protesters inside the Capitol Sunday evening were allowed to stay overnight.

Protesters have remained in the building since Feb. 15. They are fighting legislation proposed by Wisconsin's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, that would strip unions of the right to collectively bargain.

Police had set a 4 PM deadline Sunday, saying the Capitol would be completely emptied in order to clean it, for the first time in two weeks.

Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said officers were trying to persuade protesters who hadn't left by 4 PM.. to leave voluntarily.

Tubbs said no demonstrators would be arrested as long as they continued to obey the law.

27 News' Julia Fello is inside the Capitol and will have full reports on 27 News at 10.


MADISON (AP) -- Protesters are turning out nationwide to support teachers, firefighters and other public workers holding steady at the Wisconsin Capitol in their fight against legislation aimed at weakening unions.

Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Los Angeles in a show of solidarity Saturday as the protest in Madison entered its 12th day and attracted more than 70,000 people, the largest crowd yet.

Hundreds banged on drums and screamed into bullhorns inside the Capitol as others braved frigid weather and snow. They're protesting efforts by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to strip nearly all public workers from most collective bargaining rights.

Several thousand protesters gathered in Columbus, Ohio, where lawmakers are considering similar legislation. Large crowds also gathered in other capital cities including Denver; Topeka, Kan.; and Olympia, Wash.

MADISON (WKOW) --  Capitol Police closed the Capitol Sunday evening at 4:00 PM, allowing for cleanup. Police say it will return to regular business hours beginning Monday.

Protesters have been allowed to sleep in the Capitol every night since the demonstrations began, but police say Saturday is the last night that will be allowed.

Protester Dan Fresee has spent the last 11 nights inside the capitol on an air mattress. He keeps the number of an ACLU lawyer on his arm, and plans to try to stay in the capitol when it is closed Sunday at 4 p.m. for cleaning.

"I'm not putting up with all this just to walk out on my own accord," he said. Others say they will demonstrate and peacefully protest, potentially even risk arrest, as Capitol Police work to clear out the building.

27 News has a crew on the scene and will bring you the latest updates on and on 27 News at 10:00 PM.


MADISON (WKOW, AP) --  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says the two weeks of protests in the state capital haven't swayed his resolve to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

Leaders of Wisconsin's largest public workers' unions have capitulated to Walker's demands for their members to cover more of their pension and health care benefits to help close Wisconsin's budget deficit.

But Walker said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that stripping the workers of collective bargaining rights is necessary to give the state the flexibility to get its finances in order.

Democratic and union leaders say the attack on collective bargaining is an attempt to undermine the unions and weaken the Democratic Party base.

Walker also says he thinks some of the 14 state Senators who fled the capital will return soon.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Despite steady snowfall throughout the afternoon, the 12th straight day of rallies at the Wisconsin State Capitol was the largest yet, Madison police said.

Between 70,000 and 100,000 demonstrators gathered to protest a bill that would strip most public workers of almost all of their collective bargaining rights, said Madison Police public information officer Joel DeSpain.

"If teachers don't have the right to collective bargaining, we're going to be babysitters, we're not going to be able to be educators," said protester Susan Zimmerman.

An afternoon program featured speeches by union members and leaders, as well as "The West Wing" actor and Wisconsin native Bradley Whitford as well as Jeff Skiles. He's the Wisconsin pilot who earned national fame for helping land a passenger plane safely on the Hudson River in January 2009.

Skiles told the crowd their cause is "just and right" and said that usually wins out in the end.

Several Democratic leaders and state representatives participated in the protests, but Republican lawmakers were difficult to find. The state senate has adjourned until Tuesday.

Governor Scott Walker and thousands of others across the state stand behind the budget repair bill.

The bill would take away most public workers' collective bargaining rights.

The governor says the state is broke and must make drastic spending cuts. Walker says the plan is needed to ease a deficit that's projected to hi $137 million by July, and 3.6 billion by mid 2013.

Meanwhile, Governor walker continues to urge Senate Democrats to return to Madison.

The 14 Democrats left the state last week in order to stall a vote on the governor's bill. Friday, the Senate Republicans moved the bill one step closer to final passage.

19 Senate Republicans went home for the weekend, adjourning until Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says if the Democrats decide to return, they will happily meet them at the capitol. Fitzgerald says his farthest Senator is three hours away.

Fitzgerald also said Friday, if and when the democrats return to Madison, he's worried it will be difficult to work together, especially when another controversial bill comes in four months: the biennium budget.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald said, "I am concerned. I'm concerned that they're going to jump on a bus again and drive on to Illinois. If they ever come back and if they don't come back, I mean clearly they're going to be under a great deal of pressure from their own districts."

Democratic Senator Lena Taylor spoke out in Chicago, saying, "This bill would have passed and been signed into law already if we had not left, and because we left, you've been able to see now more about what's in the bill. It's 144 pages. A third of that bill are things have that are not even connected to the budget."

Also happening across the state: recall efforts for numerous state Senators.

Hundreds gathered in Green Bay in an effort to recall state Sen. Dave Hansen. Hansen, from Green Bay, is one of 14 Democratic senators who left the state Feb. 17.

The Green Bay resident who organized the effort said 14,000 district residents will need to sign petitions within 60 days to force a recall election.

In Kenosha, hundreds more turned out, demanding the recall of Senator Robert Wirch.

Organizers of the Wirch recall say the Senator is not representing them like he should.

Dan Hunt, with Taxpayers to Recall Robert, said, "It's strictly about the fact that he's in Illinois right now, it has nothing to do with the bill and certainly it's bipartisan it's both Republican and Democrat."

In Shorewood, an effort is underway to recall Republican Senator Albert Darling. The organizer of the recall there says she's to blame for letting the bill get out of committee.

Senator Darling said, "For this issue it makes me say in my mind, I'm going to do what I think is right and that is a test of my integrity."


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