Wisconsin Capitol Stormed – Occupied by Protesters (Updates)
“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” Democratic Sen. Mark Miller said in a statement. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”
MADISON, WI. Thousands of angry citizens stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol this evening when the Republican Senate, after removing fiscal items from the original bill, passed legislation that will strip public unions of most of their collective bargaining rights and require employees to pay 8% more toward their health insurance and and a greater share of their pensions. Earlier today State Senator and majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), appeared on Fox news admitting that the end game had always been to marginalize labor unions in order to defeat Obama in 2012. Hey Scott, since when is it the job of the state senate to help a presidential candidate win? And just last week Scott Walker was adamantly explaining that collective bargaining was a fiscal issue. But suddenly it isn’t, or it was…
Hundreds of cars circled the capitol honking their horns in support while the crowd grew seemingly by the minute. Teamsters in their trucks were handing out American Flags, and obviously had some sort of train whistle installed in one of their vehicles. Gone was the relatively easy going attitude of the crowd that had become a hallmark over the last several weeks. It had been replaced by anger, outrage and utter disbelief.
While walking around the Capitol, I ran into an old friend who told me that GOP senators were now holed up in the Inn on the Park across the square. So we walked over there, and sure enough the camera around my neck caught their attention when we walked into the bar. We tweeted and facebooked the info and within minutes, protesting firefighters showed up who were quite angry. Ultimately, the republicans fled from the bar to their rooms.
Heading back to the capitol we noticed the doors were wide open allowing easy entry to the building. As we are making our way to the rotunda it becomes obvious that there are no police in sight. We reach the press office where I’m able to obtain today’s pass. It is clear that this is one of the biggest crowds to occupy the building yet. There are constant reminders over the PA system that “the capitol is closed, please leave”. No one is paying the messages any mind. It is now clear that all the police have retreated to the second and third floors. One semi-official estimate is that there are 8,000 people gathered under the dome, while thousands more march outside. The crowd is a mix of teachers, union members, college students, and every day folks who have finally had it.
At about 10:30 pm, I enter the press office and find Tim Donovan, spokesperson for the Department of Administration and Capitol Police giving an impromptu press conference. Mr. Donovan states that “there will be a large number, a significantly larger amount, of law enforcement at the capitol.” Another reporter asks if he was informed ahead of time about the surprise vote. He answers “yes, I was told at about 5-ish and we tried to have more law enforcement on hand, obviously not enough”. Finally, I ask “Have you been in touch with the National Guard today?” Mr. Donovan responds with “Yes, the National Guard provides emergency law enforcement assistance, and in that capacity, yes, we have had discussions with them, but as far as being on alert goes, that’s a question for the governor”. He then exits.
Back in the rotunda, things are getting louder, drums are beating, and the police are trying to deny access to the second floor. Loud chants of “Let us up” reverberate through the building, and people start handing supplies up to the folks on the stairs behind the police officers. At one point the crowd learns that stairs on the other side of the building are unguarded, and there is a rush up them, to the second floor. It appears as if some of the occupiers are now digging in for the night.
Folks, that’s what happened this evening. The crowd peacefully took control of the Wisconsin State Capitol by overwhelming the police. This seems to be without recent precedent in American politics. The vote will now go to the assembly tomorrow(today) at 11:00 am. There’s much talk about a general strike and plenty of rumors taking on lives of their own.
It is clear that this ideological war against the middle class is just beginning. Ground zero is Wisconsin, and this fight is coming to a town near you.
I’ll have more updates tomorrow, but for now, good night.
10:00 am (Central Time) Madison Chief of Police Noble Wray and Rev. Jesse Jackson refused entry into the capitol. Some press being refused as well. No one allowed near protesters inside. Channel 3 News and WSJ pushed back down hallway away from protesters. Wisconsin Uber Alles.
10:26 State Troopers are removing people systematically from the Assembly chamber area, backing the press away
10:29 Rep. Joe Parisi – D, said he was denied entry and that Capitol is closed to everyone. 8 reporters waiting outside. People being dragged from assembly antechamber. Singing we shall overcome and chanting that this is shameful.
10:53 – 1000 high school students and walk out… march to the capitol from East High School
Crowd is getting larger and angrier outside entrance. Media entrance is mobbed.
Riot gear is finally on police.
10:57 – Drilling windows shut at the capitol
GO MAYOR DAVE! Mayor of Madison Dave Cieslewicz leading wildcat strike of public workers, marching with them to Capitol now.
Rep. Parisi introduces Jesse Jackson. Standing ovation from dems. Casual applause from republicans: GOP ironically object to him leading a prayer. God, Inc is their thing, of course. Not that benevolent dude.
For updates from the ground in Madison, follow Patrick DePula on Facebook, or follow @Mudflats on Twitter.