I spent about 3 hours at the capitol tonight, where democracy won out. I arrived around 2:30 pm and there were two entrances open. The lines to get into each entrance both ranged all the to the street along with a solid crowd of protesters not even trying to get in. Of course lets not forget the impromptu bands at each entrance, along with the largest contingent of police officers that I have seen yet. It was a very solid collection of Sheriff, State Troopers, Mounted police, along with members from forces around the state. They did an amazing professional job from a group of people you could tell had no interest in being there.
The police were cheerfully letting 1 person in for every person that walked out of the Capitol. Even though the mood was cheerful at first, there were chants of Thank you to the officers in between the “we are peaceful, let us in” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Scott Walker has got to go”. As the time reached closer and closer the 4PM deadline, the cheerfulness ended and the tension slowly built up. Shortly before 4pm the police stopped letting anyone in and everyone just gathered around the King St and the State st entrances. Starting at 4pm there were many stories and rumors floating around and a group of teachers I talked to had a plan for cooperative civil disobedience and also a plan to stay together as a group. I was also hearing stories of other people fully prepared to get arrested for the cause. On day 13, people who had occupied the “people’s house” were not ready to give up everything they have fought for with no end in sight. To fire up the crowds even more, a rumor being floated(which I believe to be true but could not confirm it) was that Senator Taylor let it be known that occupying the capitol was necessary for this fight to continue and extremely important to our cause. In the end, it did not matter if it was true or not, as it did energize the crowd.
Inside the capitol, the police were asking people to leave voluntarily but wanted nothing to do with a full out assault and massive arrests. Not only have the protests been incredibly peaceful but standing in the capitol after 4 pm were fellow police officers, along with clergy and teachers and students etc… It was a scene that did not need to happen and luckily thanks to cooler heads like Sheriff Mahoney and Chief Tubbs they realized that the only danger the protesters posed was to the passage of the “budget repair” bill.
Approximately 4:10 I spoke with representative Gary Hebl who told me that they would NOT be clearing the people out who wanted to stay and that there would NOT be any arrests. Shortly thereafter, I spoke to a police officer who would not confirm any of this. She did say that they needed to clean the capitol because it definitely had a stench. (FYI-I refrained from mentioning that the stench started on January 3rd!) Seriously though, thousands of people and thousands of pizza in a closed air building over 12 days will tend to do that.
Around 4:20 PM, Representative Brett Hulsey, (who seems to relish a fight like this) came out and confirmed that they would NOT be arresting anyone tonight. Rep. Hulsey also told me that we need to keep up the pressure it does not end here. He told me that this bill is far from passing and the Dems in the legislature have some tricks up their sleeve and to stay tuned.
Rep. Hulsey then told me that this fight is just the warm up and to wait until he releases his budget. I asked him if he thought Walker would delay the budget again, and was told that they need to vote to give him a delay and they are not in session until Tuesday so the budget will be released on Tuesday. He then reaffirmed what Rep Pocan has been saying, that we do NOT have a $3.6 billion dollar deficit. that number is manufactured by the republicans to make it worse.
Finally some random thoughts on the day:
* Word is out that Senator Dale Schultz has said he will no longer support this bill. With all due respect to everyone who has been part of this, I do not think Senator Schultz changes his vote if we did not take over the capitol tonight.
* Senator Schulz would not have defected on his own, he started a trend, give it a couple days and more will follow.
* Scott walker has not had a “win” since this whole thing started and the republicans are starting to realize that.
* The place did need to be cleaned I get that. That being said, the capitol was not trashed and anyone who has said that is not being honest.
* At this point the more that Walker goes on TV, the more people ask him about his “koch” call the more ridiculous he looks. When he loses this fight, he will be a toothless governor.
* Now that he has already said he would mess with the livelihood of hard working Wisconsinites, if he actually does lay off people to prove a point, he will lose even more support.
* Many of the teachers I know who were in the capitol after closing, decided to go home and get a good nights sleep (for a change) after they realized that enough people were there to keep the capitol open.
* David Douglas is reporting that the police and protesters will be taking it day by day as for what will happen the rest of the week. Also that the protesters were yelling thank you to the people cleaning.
* Kelda Roys was staying tonight to help the people who decided to camp out! Kudos to her!
* While I admire Senator Grothman for not ducking interviews, every time he talks he gives me a headache.
* Scott Walker has re-ignited the progressive cause like no other person could have.
* The worldwide Ian’s pizza buy is one of the coolest side stories that is coming out of this. Their pizza is awesome!
* Thanks to all of the protesters who have spent any time in Madison at the Capitol and around the state and the world. thank you also to the democrats in the Assembly and Senate for listening to us!
This story is far from over!
PS: In case you have not seen,