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Thousands Protest Budget Repair Bill: Ongoing coverage from the Capitol

February 17, 2011

6:00 p.m. Saturday

Tens of thousands of protesters flocked to the Capitol today by plane, bus, car, bike and foot.

The 14 Senate Democrats returned to Wisconsin today and joined the protesters at the Capitol.

Though Gov. Walker signed the amended budget repair bill yesterday, Democratic lawmakers told protesters today that the battle is not over.

Rep. Jennifer Shilling:

  • “We need to capitalize on this momentum and move forward and make this Governor never forget!”

Peter Barca, Assembly Minority Leader:

  • “We need to now transform this energy and let the Governor and the Fitzgerald brothers know we’ll be taking this energy and moving forward.”
  • “We’ll be fighting them in court, we’ll be fighting them back in the legislative chambers, and we’ll be fighting them at the ballot box.”
  • “We could not have done this without the droves of people coming out every day.”
  • “On the ceiling of the Governor’s Conference Room it says, Let the will of the people be the law of the land.’ Governor Walker, sooner or later you’re going to have to recognize that.”

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

5:00 p.m. Thursday

The amended budget repair bill passed the Assembly 53-42 and will go to Gov. Walker to be signed. Walker said he would sign the bill as soon as possible, but not today, according to WSJ reporter Mary Spicuzza.

The AP just posted this footage of protesters being dragged from outside the Assembly Chamber.

11:30 a.m. Thursday

The Capitol was closed to the public and media this morning until after 11:00 a.m, when the Assembly was scheduled to take up the amended budget repair bill.

Over 200 people remained inside from last night, and more climbed through windows this morning– including some reporters.

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said they would not open the Capitol until the protesters inside the Capitol came to the ground floor for security screening– a step they missed last night when protesters flooded inside unfettered.

Protesters resisted, trying to block the entrance to the Assembly Chamber. Many were carried away.

The TAA reported that the King St. and N. Hamilton St. entrances are now open.

Representatives have just made it into the Chamber to begin their session, but there are not enough members for quorum yet. Live video from Channel 3000 here.

Check out this Twitter List for ongoing live updates from the Capitol.

1:00 a.m. Thursday

With the Senate Democrats still out of state tonight, Senate Republicans passed an amended version of the budget repair bill (full text). This bill strips most collective bargaining rights, and requires employees to pay greater portions of their pensions and health benefits, according to WSJ.

Without the Democrats, the Senate lacked quorum to vote on fiscal measures. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he consulted the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Legislative Council and Legislative Reference Bureau before determining the Senate had quorum to vote on this bill, according to the Journal Sentinel.

In a vote of 18-1, Sen. Dale Schultz was the only one to vote against the bill.

The Assembly will take up this amended bill tomorrow at 11 a.m.

You can listen to audio from the conference that decided to amend the bill here, by Andrew Averill of the Badger Herald.

After locking the doors around 7 p.m., police stepped aside around 8:30 p.m. as hundreds, then thousands of protesters streamed through the State Street entrance without going through the security check that has been in place all week.

Police have said they will not attempt to remove protesters tonight.

When the bill hit the Senate, word spread rapidly through texts, phone calls and social media. The crowd swelled by thousands over the course of a few hours, and cars surrounded the Capitol with their horns playing the rhythm of, “This is what democracy looks like.” Eventually, the police closed down the roads right on the square but the horns continued farther off.

While the crowd waited outside the locked building earlier in the evening, there were signs of splintering in ideology and goals. People took the megaphone to urge people to crawl through open windows to get into the Capitol, or to storm the doors. They were met with a mix of applause, “boo”s, and pleas to remain peaceful. Some called for a general strike, causing others to mutter disagreement. One particularly edgy protester sparked loud singing of “Solidarity Forever” as people tried to cover his voice.

Inside the Capitol, these contentions were drowned in the more general chanting and drum beating where people continue to find common ground.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Above, Mayor Dave addresses the crowd, commending them and asking them to remain peaceful.

1:00 p.m. Monday

The Capitol Police released a statement today promising to site or remove anyone sleeping outside the Capitol, unless the group gets a permit. They said administrative code prohibits camping on the Capitol grounds.

Protesters have been sleeping outside the Capitol for about a week since they have been unable to get inside.

Photo by Rory Linnane

5:00 p.m. Saturday

Thousands of protesters from around the state and country colored Capitol Square today, revitalizing the core group that has been there for 19 days. As it was yesterday, the Capitol is now open to the public during business hours without lines, but with many new restrictions. Protesters are limited to the ground floor, and they are not allowed to bring in noise-makers or instruments, or tape signs to the walls.

Although DOA lawyer Cari Ann Renlund estimated Thursday that clean-up costs for the Capitol would be around $7.5 million, state officials said yesterday that number may have been about $7 million too high.

Protesters were joined today by some big names like Michael Moore (photos), Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Madison mayoral candidates, and others.

Gov. Walker sent layoff warnings to union employees yesterday saying if the budget repair bill isn’t passed in 15 days, up to 1,500 workers could be affected, according to a Journal Sentinel article. He didn’t say what number would be laid off.

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

7:00 p.m. Thursday

The Capitol will be open to the public beginning at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, Dane County Judge John Albert ruled this evening. Albert found that the restricted access to the Capitol this past week was impermissible.

Albert also ruled that protesters must leave the Capitol tonight, and leave again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. after the Capitol’s business hours.

Many protesters are currently inside the Capitol, with estimates ranging about 50-100. Some said they are waiting to see the judge’s order before leaving.

Below, police talk with protesters.

Photo by Rory Linnane

At 5:30, National Nurses United rallied at the State Street entrance to the Capitol.

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

5:00 p.m. Thursday

Senate Republicans ordered the arrest of the Senate Democrats in Illinois, finding them in contempt by vote today. According to a Journal Sentinel article, the Senate’s resolution said Democrats are violating a Senate rule that you must receive a leave of absence in order to miss session. However, this resolution may have been unconstitutional and Senate Democrats plan to fight it.

Protests continued in and outside of the Capitol today. According to a WSJ article, officials found 41 bullets around the Capitol this morning. Most were by the King and State Street entrances, with one by the N. Hamilton entrance.

A hearing in Dane County Circuit Court continued today to determine whether access to the Capitol can be restricted.

Meanwhile, the Capitol doors are slowly disappearing beneath post-its asking for them to open to the public.

Photo by Rory Linnane

The wait for visitors to get in was as low as 20 minutes this afternoon.

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Assembly Democrats continued to speak to constituents from their desks outside the Capitol.

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

11:00 p.m. Wednesday

The Immigrant Workers Union will rally at the Capitol tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. against the budget repair bill and what they called the “current anti immigrant climate.” Speeches will begin at 11:00 a.m.

The group will also be protesting part of Gov. Walker’s budget proposal that requires undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition no matter how long they’ve lived in Wisconsin. According to a Cap Times article, this would save the state very little money, but could be an unbearable burden for prospective undocumented students. According to the article, UW spokesman David Giroux said fewer than two dozen undocumented students are currently paying in-state tuition in the UW System.

4:30 p.m. Wednesday

Four Assembly Democrats moved their desks to the Capitol lawn this afternoon in order to be available to the public. They put plastic bags under desk and chair legs that sank into the muddy ground. The sign over their heads said, “Assembly Democrats Are Open for Business.”

Around the corner, other protesters lined up to get into the Capitol according to the one-out, one-in policy. About fifteen people were in the line at 4:00 p.m. Organizers were asking for people prepared to spend the night to skip to the front of the line to ensure a strong presence in the Capitol tonight.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

2:00 p.m. Wednesday

The DOA posted rules about getting into the Capitol here. Capitol Police said are letting people in for meetings, hearings and sessions in the Capitol, and allowing visitors in on a one-out, one-in basis.

Senate Republicans today voted on measures to pressure the 14 Senate Democrats to return. One measure will fine each Senator $100 for each day they are absent. Additionally, Senate Republicans will oversee the office staff of the Senate Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald met with Senate Democrats Tim Cullen and Bob Jauch in Kenosha Monday to discuss the budget repair bill and issues with the full state budget, but did not come to an agreement.

According to a Journal Sentinel article, at this meeting Fitzgerald offered one small concession on the provision that gives the Walker administration authority to change Medicaid programs. Fitgerald offered to add a requirement for a budget committee hearing to discuss any changes to Medicaid, but Democrats argue these changes should have to go through the full legislature.

4:50 p.m. Tuesday

Governor Walker just delivered his budget address. Read the transcript here.

Under Walker’s budget proposal, the UW System would face $250 million in cuts. Walker proposed that UW-Madison become an independent authority, separate from the UW System. His budget allocates $250,000 to plan a similar change for UW-Milwaukee. More details in this WSJ article.

The full budget is posted here.

3:00 p.m. Tuesday

Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser issued a restraining order this morning that requires police to allow people into the Capitol building “during business hours and at times when governmental matters, such as hearings, listening sessions and court arguments are being conducted.”

11:00 p.m. Monday

The protesters have secured the Capitol for another night. Although police stopped allowing people into the building around 3:15 p.m., many people stayed who were already inside, and more are planning to sleep outside the Capitol in tents.

Walker has repeatedly said that if the budget repair bill does not move through the Senate tomorrow, the state will no longer be able to save $165 million by the refinancing measure proposed in the bill. Senate Democrats responded to this claim today with their own plan as reported by the Journal Sentinel.

Walker will deliver his budget address at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow from the Capitol.

Although details on the budget have not been released, UW-Madison Professor Andrew Reschovsky estimated the toll to be taken on school districts. Details from the Journal Sentinel here.

The Atlantic published a piece today explaining that some compromises on the bill, such as that laid out by Sen. Dale Schultz, could be futile because the Governor has the power to veto any number of words from the bill– like the word “not,” for example.

1:00 a.m. Monday

A sense of calm has fallen over the Capitol. After a tense couple hours around 4:00 p.m. when police were expected to force everyone out, there is an air of victory as people rest and prepare for the battles to come.

While previous nights have been dominated by loud drum circles and chants, tonight was about sharing softer songs and conversations, swapping stories and praising the stamina and cooperative spirit of the group.

At 4:00 p.m., police asked people to leave, and asked those who refused to leave to move to the first floor of the Capitol. Protesters on the first floor (estimated at over 1,000) sat down and sang songs as they waited for further action from the police. Protesters outside held hands in a ring around the Capitol, joining in the songs and lighting candles. Cars honked their horns.

When police announced they would not clear the Capitol about two hours later, there was a collective sigh of relief. Numbers thinned as people became confident that the people’s presence in the Capitol was secured for the night but many stayed put, setting up blankets and pillows.

Those who stayed were well taken care of. Some people who decided to leave left behind bedding to loan to those who stayed. More pizza flooded the Capitol than its tenants could eat.

Sweet dreams in the Capitol tonight.

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

6:00 p.m Sunday

Officials announced they will not forcibly remove people from the Capitol tonight, the WSJ reported.

5:00 p.m. Sunday

Although police planned to clear out the Capitol at 4:00 p.m., hundreds of protesters remain inside. Protesters were asked to leave, but no consequences have yet come for those who chose to stay put. Police officers and fire fighters are among the crowd protesting inside.

Officials are hoping to negotiate voluntary evacuation by negotiating with organizers, as they have been all afternoon, according to this WSJ article.

Many protesters say they will not leave voluntarily, even if it means leaving in cuffs. They are prepared to be arrested, with lawyers’ numbers written down their forearms in black marker.

Fox News is live-streaming the Capitol.

12:00 p.m. Sunday

The Student Labor Action Coalition and dozens of religious leaders are intending to defy orders to leave the Capitol when it is planned to close at 4:00 p.m., willing to risk arrest. They will speak to the crowds at 3:00 p.m.

The WSJ posted this article this morning about how the protest grew from a small march to a movement with national attention and participation.

4:23 p.m. Saturday

Estimates on the Capitol Crowd today are over 100,000. MoveOn.org is live-streaming the protests here.

1:30 a.m. Saturday

BILL PASSES ASSEMBLY

With 15 Representatives remaining on the speaker’s list, Assembly Speaker Kramer cut off debate and called a vote on the budget repair bill. As Assembly Democrats realized the vote was being called they shot to their feet yelling “no.”

Kramer declared the bill passed to the Senate and the Republicans quickly filed out as Democrats shouted, “Shame, shame, shame!”

According to WISC-TV reporter Jessica Arp’s tweets, the final vote was 51-17, and four Republicans voted against the bill (Dean Kaufert, Lee Nerison, Richard Spanbauer, and Travis Tranel). The vote tally was inaudible over the shouting in the Chamber. Twenty-eight Representatives were not in the Chamber at the time of the unexpectedly quick vote.

The rushed vote was foreshadowed minutes before it happened. The second to last speaker before the cut-off, Rep. Berceau reprimanded the Republicans for their lack of participation in debate.

“There has never been this much tension and divisiveness in this body. What have we come to in this state? What has this body come to? Where do we go from here?” she said. “Go to your Wikipedia and look up ‘debate.’ This has not been a debate…. Your leadership told you, ‘We got the votes. Just shut up and sit on your hands.’ This is not working together; it’s waiting it out.”

Berceau said she worried about the lack of debate over this bill and future measures to come through the Assembly.

“I used to have friends on the other side of the aisle. Your party has moved further and further to the right and also become more insular. We weren’t heard in this process and the people weren’t heard either,” she said. “We keep thinking that if we tell you sad stories your heart might break open or your conscience will bother you. And it doesn’t work…. As Democrats we have to remember that we’re speaking gibberish to you. You can’t translate it. You believe in individual responsibility, but not a social responsibility.”

Berceau also noted that the Republican side of the Chamber was unusually empty.

As the next speaker took the floor, the Chamber filled with Representatives who had been out. An Assembly Democrat rose and asked the Speaker how many Representatives were left on the speaker’s list, and whether they would all be guaranteed an opportunity to speak.

Kramer said there were 16 speakers left, and he would not guarantee them the chance to speak. Kramer said the speakers were being repetitive.

When the speaker on the floor finished, Kramer immediately called for a vote.

There was chaos as Representatives shouted their votes. Many Assembly Democrats emotionally reprimanded Kramer, and people in the Gallery added their own “nay” votes to the confusion. The gavel came down and the bill was passed.

As the Republicans left, Assembly Democrats and people watching from the Gallery stood and chanted, “Shame.”

Slate posted this video of the scene in the Chamber.

When Democrats left the Capitol, they passed through the crowd, chanting “thank you” as the crowd chanted “thank you” right back at them.

Before the final vote Thursday night, many Assembly Democrats tried to recess the session until the next morning.

“Let’s debate this in the light of day and end it in the light of day,” Rep. Barca said.

Another Assembly Democrat argued that sleep deprivation made it harder to have coherent debate.

Speaker Kramer responded, “As difficult as your job is, I do it standing up and paying attention. I do not need a recess.”

In the 61 hours the Assembly spent in session debating the bill, Republicans shot down every amendment proposed by Democrats.

The bill will now move to the Senate, which still awaits the 14 out-of-state Democrats in order to have quorum for voting on the bill.

If the bill isn’t passed early next week, it will be too late for the state to execute the refinancing part of the bill that would save $165 million, leading to deeper cuts.

Tonight could be the protesters’ last all-nighter inside the Capitol. According to a WSJ article, lawmakers passed a rule that would allow police to force everyone to leave after 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. It’s up to Gov. Walker whether to enforce that rule.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

11:00 p.m. Thursday

Assembly Republicans just tried to begin voting on the Budget Repair Bill, suspending rules and cutting off the speaker’s list for debate on the bill. The Chamber immediately erupted, with Representatives running around, shouting over each other, and pounding their fists and feet.

Finally Rep. Barca’s voice rose above all others, yelling, “We must stop the corruption in this body. We demand to be recognized.”

The Chamber quieted and Barca continued, “It’s pretty clear now it was no accident what you did before…. This is what democracy looks like for people who want to trample on people’s rights. This is what corruption looks like. This is just terrible. You have the right to make whatever motion you want but people have the right to be recognized…. You want to silence us just so you can move forward with this radical agenda. The good news is the camera’s are on.”

The hundreds of protesters in the Capitol punctuated his remarks with cheers that reverberated in the Chamber.

Majority Leader Scott Suder responded. “We are at an impasse here. It seems clear that our side wants to vote and I challenge anyone watching to try to make the argument that we have not allowed adequate debate,” he said. “We have been here 59 hours.”

Barca moved for the Speaker to be removed. The Assembly is currently debating removing the Speaker.

11:30 p.m. Wednesday

In their longest continual session in history, the Assembly is still working through the over 100 amendments proposed by Democrats. Protesters are quietly packing the Assembly Gallery and loudly continuing protests in the center of the Capitol.

1:30 p.m. Wednesday

Prank call to Walker: A blogger from Buffalo Beast made Walker believe he was David Koch, and continued to have a phone conversation with him about the Budget Repair Bill. Find the transcript from the call here.

Here’s an excerpt about planting trouble makers in the crowd:

  • Beast blogger posing as Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
  • Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.

Some digestion by the Journal Sentinel: Caller posing as major GOP contributor dupes Walker

In the Capitol, protesters have set up a “Budget Repair Bucket,” collecting donations to literally (or at least symbolically) help repair the budget. People may also donate online.

3:00 a.m. Wednesday

The Assembly is debating amendments to the Budget Repair Bill into the early morning hours Wednesday, making it to Amendment 17 by 3:00 a.m. with no sign of stopping. Protesters at the Capitol are watching from the Assembly gallery and from the center of the Capitol where the proceedings are broadcast from televisions. Others have been lulled to sleep by the voices of their Representatives echoing loudly through the Capitol hallways.

  • Rep. Penny Schaber (D): “I don’t believe we’ve had a debate tonight. I think we’ve had a one-sided conversation….  I believe we have worked very hard to improve this bill and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of disrespect from the other side.”

11:30 p.m. Tuesday

Volunteers called upon by the TAA and the Grassroots Leadership College are offering training sessions in non-violent demonstration at the Capitol.

Preparing for the possibility of police arresting protesters the Capitol, they are asking everyone to decide ahead of time whether they will leave the Capitol if warned or stay to be arrested. For those who decide to be arrested, volunteers are asking them to decide whether they will cooperate with arrest or go limp.

In order to avoid more charges, volunteers are suggesting that anyone arrested use the following phrases: “I am not leaving. I am willing to be arrested. I will cooperate.” If asked questions, people should give their names and addresses, but should ask to talk to a lawyer before providing any more information.

Many lawyers have volunteered to help arrested protesters free of charge. If arrested, protesters are to call 608-257-0945, a number set up by the AFL-CIO that will connect protesters with lawyers.

Training facilitators believe that if arrested, protesters will be taken to the Alliant Energy Center, where they will be processed, cited for a misdemeanor (likely trespassing or disorderly conduct), given a court date, and released.

4:30 p.m. Tuesday

Walker will give a televised speech tonight at 6 p.m. Excerpts of the speech released by his office are posted on the Journal Sentinel’s All Politics Blog.

2:00 p.m. Tuesday

Democrats from Indiana’s legislature are leaving Indiana to stall a vote on a bill that would limit union bargaining power. See the Indianapolis Star article for more information.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans would oppose a law in their own state limiting collective bargaining powers.

The Senate has adjourned for the day.

12:00 p.m. Tuesday

Walker said this morning that some state employees could receive layoff notices next week, and 1500 could be laid off by July, if the budget repair bill does not pass.

The Senate convened this morning without Democrats present. As promised, they passed the Packers resolution and dairy farmer tax credits bill.

The Assembly is currently in session to discuss the budget repair bill. The Daily Cardinal is live-Tweeting the meeting. Photos here.

2:00 p.m. Monday

Capitol crowds are re-enthused today, helped by the furlough day and visits from musicians like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

Morello announced in the Capitol this afternoon that he will be playing a show tonight at Monona Terrace with other musicians including Tom Gabel from Against Me . He said doors will open at 6:00 p.m. and the show will start at 7:00 p.m. Check the Facebook group for a full list of artists (but note that the location and time are currently incorrect).

With Senate Democrats still out of state, Senate Republicans are planning to meet on Tuesday to vote on extending tax credits for dairy farmers until 2016 and passing a resolution commending the Packers, according to a WSJ article. While the budget bill requires 3/5 of members to be present, these votes just require a majority to be present because they do not include spending changes. Senate Democrats said they will not return for these votes on Tuesday if it means allowing the Budget Repair Bill to pass.

According to an article by Journal Sentinel, Senate Republicans threatened to vote on the Voter ID bill if Democrats aren’t back after Tuesday. The bill would require Wisconsin voters to show ID at the polls on voting day.

The Senate would need 20 members to vote on the Voter ID bill as written because it allocates funds to enforce the rule, such as providing free IDs. However, Senators could rewrite the bill without this provision and pass it with the 19 Republican Senators present.

In the meantime, Senate Democrats and protesters are trying to convince three Senate Republicans to compromise on the bill, enough to take the majority “yes” vote away from the Republicans.

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow to discuss the Budget Repair Bill, which they are expected to pass with plenty of votes. However, in their time off, Democrat Representatives have prepared hundreds of amendments to the bill.

The TAA is hosting a phone bank where callers are asking constituents of targeted Senate Republicans to lobby their Senators. The phone bank is running 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 254 West Gilman, above American Apparel. For more information about phone banking and other volunteer opportunities, visit Defend Wisconsin. If you want to volunteer remotely, email volunteertodefendwisconsin@gmail.com.

Protesters slept in the Capitol again last night, further establishing their small functioning village. Students studied late into the night in the “quiet study room”– a hallway on the third floor with an electrical outlet. Volunteer marshals patrolled the hallways, cleaning up garbage and sharing information. A drum circle played until midnight on the first floor.

Teams of steel workers and fire fighters announced today they will sleep in the Capitol tonight.

The TAA is calling for another teach-out tomorrow to protest the convening of the Assembly and Senate.

“We are calling for a teach-out rather than a walk-out because we do not want learning to cease at the UW. We value education and thus we are calling for instructors to use their discretion to cancel classes, reschedule them or hold them off campus. We are calling on action from teaching assistants, research assistants, project assistants and professors,” the TAA wrote in their press release.

The Grassroots Leadership College is offering non-violence training sessions at the Overture Center hourly until 9 p.m. tonight. More info here.

4:00 p.m. Sunday

Photo by Rory Linnane

In the light hail and snow today, few protesters are stationed outside the Capitol. Inside, the rotunda is full but not as packed as it has been the past couple days.

Today more protesters were talking about the bill’s impact on Medicaid programs. This piece from the Cap Times explores why this issue has been mostly unheard in the protests.

Law enforcement officials reported that there were no major incidents or arrests yesterday, and commended protesters for their behavior.

Senate Republicans plan to reconvene on Tuesday, threatening to vote on non-financial bills, which require fewer members to be present, if Democrats are still not present.

If you haven’t yet seen Matt Wisniewski’s videos of the protests, check them out here.

9:30 a.m. Sunday

People were able to tape signs back up this morning.

3:00 a.m. Sunday: Police Take Down Signs in the Capitol

Photo by Rory Linnane

At about 1:50 a.m. Sunday, Capitol Police started taking down signs and throwing them away in garbage bags. Immediately, people resting around the Capitol got up to take pictures, ask questions and complain.

Amongst a lot of confusion, officers said the decision came from Sergeant Kaufman in room 412. At Koffman’s door, police stood guard and wouldn’t allow anyone to speak with her, saying she was busy working out numbers of police officers on duty in the Capitol.

Officer William Jeschke, speaking for Kaufman, said the signs were taken down in an effort to clean the Capitol, and because some signs were becoming offensive. He said the decision to remove the signs came to Kaufman from someone at the Incident Command Center. He said Kaufman did not know who this person was.

Many people said they wished the police had asked them to take down signs so that they could save them, rather than immediately throwing them away. Police had previously instructed the TAA, the Information Center, and other people that hanging signs with blue tape was acceptable.

While some tape can damage the marble in the capitol, many officers confirmed that blue tape does not harm the marble. Police took down all signs, regardless of the kind of tape used.

Police have the authority to remove signs from Capitol walls at any time, according to section 2.07 of their administrative code. They were, however, allowing Information Center signs to remain on the walls.

Officer Lisa Floyd, also posted outside Kaufman’s door, said people would likely be able to put up signs again in the morning.

Floyd and Jeschke both said that if they are ordered to take down signs again in the future, they will ask people to take down their own signs first.

Many officers said they regretted not asking first.

“The second we pulled down the signs, we thought this was a bad decision. We know some signs took a lot of work,” Officer J. J. Loud said.

Last night rumors circulated that police would be kicking everyone out of the Capitol. Officers speculated that these rumors originated from them saying, “We’re cleaning up the Capitol tonight,” in reference to the signs.

9:00 p.m. Saturday: The People in the Middle

Going into night five of sleep-overs at the capitol, a core group of youth has developed as the leaders of the rotunda.

Inexhaustible, they start chants, pass the megaphone around the crowd, play drums, and continuously urge people to testify in room 328 NW. When people want a turn to speak, they know who to tap on the shoulder.

“None of us knew each other when we got here, but this experience brought us to unite,” said Neporsha Hamlin, 18. “We all believe in justice. People are trying to rip off the most important people in the world. We wouldn’t even know how to talk if it wasn’t for these teachers who taught us how.”

Hamlin graduated from Madison Memorial High School last year and plans to attend UW-La Crosse in the Fall. She came to the Capitol as soon as she heard the news of protests and hasn’t left the grounds since.

“When I woke up and saw what was happening here on the T.V. I told my mom, ‘I gotta go,'” said Hamlin.”I got here and never quit. I never stopped yelling.”

Hamlin’s ear plugs, hoarse voice and baggy eyes corroborated her story.

“When I got here I was full of energy so they pulled me into the center, and that’s where I stayed. I never left,” she said.

Brock Miller, 15, came from Reedsburg with his parents and has also never left the center.

“I like my voice being heard, to show that everyone can make a difference no matter what age you are.”

Another student of the center group, MATC student Chris Ingles, addressed the crowd often and with earnest.

“We have drums. Rhythm keeps people going. We have food. Food keeps people going,” Ingles said. “Solidarity!”

Ingles went on to share an anecdote about his Facebook status stating he was going to the Capitol. He said a friend commented that she would be there representing the Tea Party, “sorry Chris.”

“And I said, don’t be sorry,” Ingles said. “When you’re here, you’re exercising your right. And what are we fighting for? Our rights. Our rights. Our rights.”

Photo by Rory Linnane

4:00 p.m. Saturday

Bill protesters clashed with bill supporters today at the capitol, remaining non-violent as police watched over their impassioned debates, chants and insults.

Chants of “Kill the bill, tax the rich” battled “Pass the bill, taxed enough.” While some shouted, “Go Scott, go,” others shouted, “No Scott, no.”

According to the WSJ, police estimated the crowd to be about 60,000– the largest yet.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Musicians Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine), Tom Gabel (from Against Me), Wayne Kramer and Mike McColgan are planning to perform at the Capitol Monday night. Find more information on the Facebook event page.

Are you looking for somewhere to stay in Madison? Do you have extra space for people to stay? Check out this Facebook group, connecting the demand to the supply. If you answered no, check it out anyway because it’s a great show of Wisconsin generosity.

1:00 p.m. Saturday

Buses from across the country brought something like 2,000 tea party protesters to the capitol today so far, chanting their support for Walker. Only two entrances to the capitol are open (N. Hamilton and S. Hamilton) so police can control the flow of people. There are some loud shouting matches but there haven’t been any reports of violence.

Jessica Arp from WISC-TV posted this video from the scene.

According to the WSJ, Sen. Jon Erpenbach said this morning from Chicago, “I have been informed that all state and local public employees – including teachers – have agreed to the financial aspects of Governor Walker’s request. This includes Walker’s requested concessions on public employee health care and pension. In return they ask only that the provisions that deny their right to collectively bargain are removed. This will solve the budget challenge.”

However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the Republicans were unwilling to budge on anything.

2:00 a.m. Saturday

The public hearing continues into the night on the third floor of the capitol.

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

Until around midnight, people were jamming in the capitol with buckets, maracas, a saxophone and rhythmic chants like, “Ain’t nothing like the power of the people cause the power of the people don’t stop.”

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

8:00 p.m. Friday

Jesse Jackson addressed the crowd at the capitol this evening, leading about 40,000 protesters in chants.

  • “We want an even playing field for workers. Workers have a right to be at the table.”
  • “We will not surrender. We will not go away. We will keep hope alive.”
  • “It’s time to refortify our faith and restructure our economy.”
  • “This is a Martin Luther King moment.”
  • “Don’t let them break your spirit. Say no to violence.”
  • “Don’t let them make you ashamed of the word liberal. America is a liberal idea.”

Jackson led the crowd in singing “We shall overcome,” adding his own verses about workers’ rights. People in the crowd joined arms and swayed back and forth, flying flags, waving signs and shedding tears together.

The Ed Show is broadcasting live from the capitol again tonight at 9:00 p.m.

Tea Partiers are planning a rally for tomorrow around 12:00 p.m. in support of Walker’s plan.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

 

 

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

2:00 p.m. Friday

The Senate voted this afternoon to allow Walker to another week to unveil his state budget bill. The Senate has enough members to vote on the delay, but not enough to vote on the Budget Repair Bill which requires 3/5 of Senators to be present.

The delay measure still must be passed by the Assembly. The Assembly convened at 9:00 a.m. this morning but is now in recess.

According to a new poll, most Wisconsinites are against the Budget Repair Bill but believe the Senate Democrats should come back to the capitol to vote.

11:30 a.m. Friday

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent troopers after Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller this morning. After speaking with him on the phone last night, Fitzgerald believed Miller was home in Wisconsin. When troopers arrived at Miller’s house, they knocked on the door and got no response. Then they left and returned to the capitol. More information in this WSJ article.

Jessica Arp from WISC-TV posted a video update to YouTube that shows the scene in the capitol, with kids doing homework and a group of people protesting in sign language.

People will be speaking outside the capitol at 12 p.m. today. Afterward, the TAA said they will be leading a clean-up of the capitol grounds in yellow vests.

While most of the protesters are focusing on the collective bargaining rights this bill would strip, the proposed changes to medical aid programs seem to be slipping under the radar. Rep. Sandy Pasch wrote about this issue in the Journal Sentinel yesterday. She wrote, “This provision would give the Walker administration carte blanche authority to make far-reaching changes within vital health programs – including the spectrum of BadgerCare plans, Family Care and SeniorCare – with only minimal review by the Republican-controlled budget committee.”

10:30 p.m. Thursday

Photo by Rory Linnane

The Ed Show on MSNBC broadcast live from Madison 9-10:00 p.m. tonight outside the capitol.

During the show Schultz spoke with the Senate Democrats at their undisclosed location in Illinois.

Sen. Fred Risser:

  • “We’re here today to slow down the steamrolling process that our young governor has adopted. He’s attempting in five days to eliminate and do away with what the state has accomplished in 50 to 100 years. What we’re going to do is we’re going to slow this process down. We’re going to give the people of this state an opportunity to talk to their representatives, to talk to the executives, to let the public know what they feel about it, and to slow up what this outrageous dictatorial new governor is doing to us.”
  • “I doubt we’ll be back tomorrow. But we’ll be back sometime, after we’ve given the people an opportunity to make known their feelings to the various legislators and to the state.”
  • “Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites– good, solid, hard-working Wisconsinites– are demonstrating just to be heard. And they’re not being heard…. We hear them and we want them to make their voices loud and clear so that others who are in a position to vote on this and make a difference will hear them also.”

Schultz spoke in support of the protesters and called on the President and other prominent leaders to follow suit.

  • “These people need you [President Obama] to stand shoulder to shoulder with them tonight.”
  • “I have to tell you folks that I have never been more connected emotionally to a story in my entire career. There’s something about the heartland. There’s something about the voices I heard today. There’s something about Wisconsin. This is ground zero for labor in this country. We are on the front line for the ideological fight for America.”
  • “Look at this crowd. This is as American as it gets. This is democracy. This isn’t Cairo. We’ve been doing this for over 230 years.”
  • “I had a firefighter grab my hand tonight– a big firefighter, a hard-working guy. He grabbed my hand and almost crushed it because he wanted to get my attention. And he came this close to me and he said, ‘Ed, this isn’t fair.'”
  • “These are hard-working Americans that are being wronged by a governor, being wronged by a legislative session, being wronged by an agenda that is going to hurt this state and hurt this country for years.”

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

The Ed Show will be BACK AGAIN TOMORROW for another live broadcast.

Back in the capitol, protesters are keeping the energy up, banging on drums and buckets and speaking through megaphones.

Police are saying the doors to the capitol will be open all night.

If you’re looking for quicker news, Jessica Arp from WISC-TV is doing a fabulous job of tweeting updates.

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

6:30 p.m. Thursday

The public hearing has been going for over 80 hours. Senate Democrats are still out of the state, stalling the process as Representatives draft amendments to the bill.

Walker held a press conference just before 5:00 p.m. Shortly after., speakers addressed thousands of people gathered outside the capitol.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt:

  • “We understand that these are tough financial times…. But you don’t act like a bully and start beating up on the people that work for you.”
  • “It is up to us to show the world that solidarity is not just a slogan but a way of life.”

Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts:

  • “Please don’t go away. Please stay and give us the courage we need.”

Rep. Jennifer Shilling (on Joint Finance Committee):

  • “Never have so few ignored so many and learned so little.”
  • “This is just the beginning. This is not over. It is imperative that we keep this a peaceful demonstration because this is the Wisconsin way.”

Harold Schaitberger, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters:

  • “There’s an old tactic about divide and conquer– watch them fight each other…. Well I’ll tell you what. They made a mistake because we’re not standing by.”
  • “This isn’t happening in a vacuum. This is coordinated…. This is about those who have the power and want to kill our unions. They want us dead.”
  • “They might have us on your heels for a second but by God we are going to fight back and we are going to prevail.”
  • “This is about the heart of America, who builds America.”

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

2 p.m. Thursday

TAA Madison tweeted that they heard all Senate Democrats have left the state.

12 p.m. Thursday

Senate Democrats are leaving the city, effectively making the Senate unable to meet or vote on the bill because they lack quorum. Session began at 11:30 a.m. According to a WSJ article, after taking attendance Republican Senate President Mike Ellis announced a “call of the house,” sending police officers to force Democrats back to the capitol.

At 10 a.m. today, UW-Madison students walked out of their classes and marched to the capitol. The walk-out was endorsed by ASM.

The crowd today is thousands bigger, coming from all over the state to fill the capitol and State Street.

12 a.m. Thursday

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 to pass the bill with all Democrats voting against and all Republicans for. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to hear new speakers in an informal hearing and the speakers list continues to grow. Even more people are spending the night than last night.

The crowd applauded as Democrats left the building. The Republicans were more subtle in their departure.

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

9:30 p.m. Wednesday

The Madison Metropolitan School District canceled school tomorrow.

7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Protests continued today in even greater number than yesterday, with lots of teachers able to attend due to canceled school. The Joint Finance Committee is meeting tonight to discuss the bill after hearing 17 hours of testimony yesterday (and more for the Democrats in the informal hearing that went all night). The committee is expected to vote on the bill in a few hours. Protesters are planning another all-nighter.

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

Photo by Rory Linnane

8:30 a.m. Wednesday

After listening to testimony all night long from Wisconsinites limited to two minutes each, the Democrats decided to recess until the Republicans return at noon. During the testimony, legislators slipped in and out for breaks but continued to listen to the speakers.

Speakers argued that cutting collective bargaining rights would be harmful to the state, telling personal stories, singing songs, and sharing poetry.

3:30 a.m.Wednesday

The committee adjourned at about 3:00 a.m. Democrats held a press conference to announce they would continue listening to the public in the capitol. Ians delivered free pizza.

  • Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar): “I’ve never experienced a moment when I’m as proud as I am of being a Wisconsin citizen…. At 3:00 in the morning, this state is alive.”
  • Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee): “There’s a reason your voices have been silenced. They don’t want to hear about the piece of garbage that’s been called the Budget Repair Bill. This is going to be a war, but you know tonight we won the first battle.”

 

Photo by Rory Linnane

2:20 a.m.Wednesdsay

The committee is talking about adjourning at 3:00 a.m.

  • Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar):“Let’s not decide at 3:00 we’ve heard enough…. My God I’m not leaving tonight until everyone has testified.”
  • Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee): “I don’t know one time that finance had this number of people…. I’m going to stay, and I’m willing to stay.”

If the committee adjourns at 3:00, Democrats say they will reconvene in the capitol rotunda and continue to listen to the public. In the meantime, protesters play cards, study, talk, sleep, and prepare their next moves.

The committee’s proceedings are broadcast on televisions mounted on the third floor.

Photo by Rory Linnane

1:00 a.m. Wednesday

Protest organizers expect Republicans to leave around 2:00 a.m. At that point, organizers say the Democrats will hold unofficial “People’s Hearings.” The goal is to keep everyone here until teachers march to the capitol tomorrow. All Madison Metropolitan School District schools are closed for tomorrow because they expected so many teachers to be absent.

Photo by Rory Linnane

12:00 a.m.Wednesday

Organizers are circulating the capitol, sharing news that the Republicans will leave but the Democrats will stay for as long as people want to speak. They are asking people to stay here until 9:00 a.m.

Photo by Rory Linnane

11:30 p.m. Tuesday

Students are in the capitol with piles of homework and nests of blankets, planning for a sleepover.

Photo by Rory Linnane

8:00 p.m. Tuesday

University of Wisconsin System student government leaders gathered in the Student Activity Center to express their criticism of the Budget Repair Bill. Download the press release here.

5:00 p.m. Tuesday

Photo by Rory Linnane

Thousands gathered at the capitol today to protest Governor Walker’s proposal to cut collective bargaining rights and many health care benefits for nearly all state employees.

ASM denounced the bill Sunday because it would affect UW-Madison TAs and professors.

Wisconsinites including students, teachers, firefighters, nurses, and sanitation workers united in chants on the capitol steps, growing strongest around noon. Many state employees spoke to the crowd.

“A public employee’s job is so much more than just being part of a union,” said Natanya Johnson, a family childcare provider. “We are your community. There is no one who cares more about this state than the state workers who make this state go forward every day.”

Following the short speeches, protesters brought their chants into the capitol.

“The people united will not be defeated,” they shouted. “They say cut back. We say fight back.”

Many of the protesters were students. As the day went on, students cracked open textbooks and workbooks, reading and scribbling in hallways during down time.

UW-Madison senior James Hillner said he came to the capitol to fight for his mother.

“I’m here because my mom is a breast cancer survivor and she has a state job, and the only way she could get through that was because of her benefits,” Hillner said. “She had to work today so she said I should come.”

The Wisconsin State Journal estimated over 10,000 people flooded the capitol. Many of them spoke at the public hearing on the issue today, and they will continue to speak into the evening.

Although the president of the Wisconsin state Senate said the bill has enough votes to pass (according to a WSJ article), protesters hope they can convince legislators to change their minds before the vote.

ASM urges students to participate in protests again tomorrow at 12 p.m. Find information on Facebook.

Photo by Rory Linnane

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