MADISON, Wis. -- Police carried dozens of protesters from a hallway leading to the Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday as Democratic representatives pounded on the locked door of the chamber, demanding to be let in to the room where a vote was scheduled on an explosive bill that would take away public workers' collective bargaining rights.
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At least 100 protesters packed the hallway, pounding drums, while the Democratic representatives gathered in front of the doors, which were opened just before 11:30 a.m. At least 50 protesters were carried out by police, and the building was locked down briefly while officers did a security review.
Rallies against the bill have attracted thousands of protesters to the Capitol over the past several weeks. A vote on it had been held up after 14 Democratic senators fled to Illinois three weeks ago, leaving that chamber one short of the 20 members needed to take up any measures that spend money.
Republicans got around that Wednesday by using an unexpected but simple procedural move to remove all spending measures from Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining legislation and voting to approve it without Democrats present.
About 200 people spent the night in the Capitol in protest over the Senate's swift and unexpected passage of the bill.
With the Assembly's vote scheduled for 11 a.m., dozens of Democratic representatives showed up to find the doors to the chamber locked.
"What more egregious, illegal, unethical step can be taken to prevent democracy in Wisconsin?" asked Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, as she pounded on the door along with her colleagues.
With the Assembly empty, it was not clear where Republican lawmakers were. They showed up and began to file in after the doors were opened.
Protesters packed the Assembly gallery, sitting quietly as lawmakers prepared to vote. In other parts of the building, they called out and shouted as television cameras recorded the scene.
Police began clearing protesters out about an hour before the scheduled vote. Danny Spitzberg, 26, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said officers gave protesters little explanation for why they needed to leave. He walked out on his own after being ordered to leave, but others were dragged through the hall.
"This is grossly undemocratic, it stinks up the whole process," Spitzberg said.
At a news conference at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds in suburban Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker said he was traveling and hadn't been to the Capitol on Thursday, but he was concerned about problems he had been told were being caused by a handful of protesters. He did not specify what those problems were.
Walker said the judge who has been deciding access to the building also was being apprised of developments, and he asked the protesters to remain peaceful.
"People can have a civil, passionate debate about this. One doesn't have to offset the other," Walker said. "It is my hope and my request to the people of the state is that they comply. My worry is frankly people coming in from other states who aren't as interested in complying with the civility we've shown here in the state, not only lately but throughout out state's history."
About 15 protesters stood outside the fairground's gates chanting "Recall Walker" during the news conference. They held signs, including: "United We Stand."
03/11/2011 4:40 PM EST
Wisconsin Student Walkouts
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill to end collective bargaining for public employees passed the state senate on Wednesday. In reaction, Wisconsin high school students are planning a nationwide walkout in order to send a unified message in support of public education.
A Facebook event labeled Nationwide Student Walkout already has more than 5,000 people "attending." The group asks for the nationwide walkout to happen this Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. local time.
Read more here.
03/11/2011 4:03 PM EST
Walker Signs Anti-Union Bill Into Law
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is certain support will grow for the new law that eliminates nearly all collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The governor signed the measure Friday. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he has "no doubt" that support will build as the government becomes more efficient. He said public employees would still have civil-service protections.
Walker spoke about the law even as dozens of protesters shouted outside his Capitol office in opposition to it. The proposal passed the state senate and Assembly earlier this week.
03/11/2011 4:01 PM EST
Democratic Party Releases First Post-Vote Ad Targeting Wisconsin Republicans
HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:
Less than two days after Wisconsin Senate Republicans took to seedy if not crafty parliamentary maneuvers to pass an anti-collective bargaining bill, the Democratic party is up with ads targeting individual members.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released an ad on Friday attacking Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Wis.) for being a doormat in Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to get his budget-related measure passed into law.
“We expect pins to get bowled over,” the spot goes. “Pies to get rolled. But we certainly don’t expect our senators to get flattened. Last month, Senator Olsen said eliminating collective bargaining is, quote, ‘pretty radical.’
Read the rest here.
03/11/2011 3:26 PM EST
Wisconsinites March From Milwaukee To Madison
HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:
Far away from the large protests at the Wisconsin statehouse, a group of about 60 people -- students, teachers, nurses and others -- met at 6:00 a.m. at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on Friday morning, the first step in their march all the way to Madison (approximately 80 miles).
The walk will take three days, ending at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday in Madison. Today, the group is walking about 12 or 13 hours. Tomorrow will be eight hours, and Sunday will be six hours. While some people are going to be making the full trek, others will be joining and leaving along the way.
The Huffington Post spoke with Christopher Fons, a public school teacher who came up with the idea for the march, at noon CT. Fons is part of the group People Organizing Wisconsin for Education and Workers Rights (POWER). They had already walked approximately 20 miles and were excited that it was a "balmy" 35 degrees.
Fons first conceived of the march about a week ago, when he was teaching his U.S. history class about Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association. In 1965, Chavez organized a historic farmworkers march from Delano, Calif. to Sacramento -- 340 miles.
"It's about the journey," said Fons. "There's been a lot of large demonstrations in Capitol, but we just thought we should try to dramatize this in a different way. I'm in complete support of the large rallies, but I just think we need to be doing other strategies to raise consciousness."
A few stands have popped up along the march route providing coffee and other refreshments, which have, according to Fons, really helped the morale of the participants. But when The Huffington Post spoke with Fons, they were in Waukesha County, a more Republican area where he said the reception had not always been quite as friendly.
"The message is about not allowing collective bargaining to be ended and about defending public education in the state -- to try to defend this idea that we have the Wisconsin idea," said Fons. "The Wisconsin idea is an egalitarian society that has education at its center, for everybody."
Since the beginning of the controversy, teachers have been an integral part of the protests against Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget repair bill, with many public schools shut down for days because so many teachers have gone to Madison to protest.
03/11/2011 3:25 PM EST
Sen. Ron Johnson Denounces 'Mob Rule'
The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a former businessman and now a freshman senator, held a conference call Thursday afternoon with a small group of bloggers. For a freshman, he's entirely fluid on the issues and easily navigates between specifics and larger themes.
I asked him about Wisconsin. Why did Gov. Scott Walker take so long to pull out the "fiscal" elements and pass the legislation without a quorum? Johnson first made clear that he and the governor believe this "is not about individual workers . . . but about rebalancing the equation" so that the taxpayers' interests are being protected. As for the long-in-coming resolution, Johnson explained that the governor wanted the collective bargaining provision and the rest of the cost-cutting measures "tied" because they were all part of the effort to close the state's budget deficit. But it became evident the Democrats weren't budging. He said that one Democratic senator even requested an absentee ballot for the spring election. At that point Walker moved forward on the bill.
Read more here.
03/10/2011 6:42 PM EST
Jesse Jackson: Whether Cairo Or Madison, It Will Not Work
The Daily Caller reports on Jesse Jackson's statements on the Wisconsin anti-union bill's passage:
“More health care for more Americans is not as hurtful as less education and less health care and fewer jobs,” Jackson said. “Maybe what you see here is the rise of hurt and people are acting out their democratic rights and sharing their pain. And they want to be heard and I feel that when they’re steamrolled as they were in the Assembly and as they are in the Senate, people are going to fight back against the governor hears them and engages in democracy and not ramrod democracy. It simply will not work whether Cairo or Madison, it will not work.”
Jackson said pro-union legislators were denied the ability to vote on the issue and forecasted a “rebellion” to come within the next month.
Full story here.
03/10/2011 5:55 PM EST
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate has issued the following statement on the anti-union bill's passage:
"It is a shameful day for Wisconsin. Ultimately, our working families will have their day and Scott Walker's victory will ring as hollow as his pledges to their well-being. Today, the Koch Brothers can pop some champagne. But know that our total focus now is on recall."
03/10/2011 5:52 PM EST
State Capitol Closing Early
The Wisconsin State Capitol will close at 6 p.m. CST today, WKOW.com reported on Twitter.
03/10/2011 5:49 PM EST
Municipalities Pursuing Legal Challenges
Wisconsin municipalities are already mounting legal challenges against the controversial anti-union bill that passed first in the state Senate and now in the Assembly.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz asserted on his blog that the bill's passage violates the state's open meetings law and has engaged City Attorney Mike May:
I've asked Mike to join any action he deems appropriate in the courts this morning to reverse the Senate's illegal action.
Meanwhile, Dane County has also begun taking action, reports Madison's WKOW.com:
To quote Mike's email to alders and I this morning:
"The Office of the City Attorney (in compliance with State law) insists on 24 hours notice for any meeting, or adding any matter to an agenda, unless there is no way that 24 hours notice could have been given. Mere convenience or inadvertence is insufficient to meet the less than 24-hour notice. This is necessary to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. It is an essential element of government in Wisconsin.
"Today's action does not meet that test. It does not comply with Wisconsin Law.
"The action taken today will be struck down if challenged in court."
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and County Board Chair Scott McDonell have directed Dane County attorneys to pursue legal action related to state Senate Republicans passing the budget repair bill without Democrats present.
03/10/2011 5:36 PM EST
Labor Vows To Challenge Anti-Union Bill In Court
HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:
Dealt a major setback Wednesday night in a high-stakes battle over union rights in Wisconsin, labor leaders nevertheless insisted that they would emerge from the three-week long saga energized and eager to continue fighting.
Hours after Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and his Republican allies in the state Senate took nearly everyone by surprise and pushed through a stand-alone bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights, labor officials pledged to ramp up efforts to recall Republicans and challenge the legislation in court.
Only shortly before the vote took place, local news outlets reported that Republicans were splitting Walker's budget repair bill into two. While the Senate requires a quorum of 3/5 of its members to vote on fiscal statutes, just a majority is needed for other matters. Therefore, Senate Republicans broke off the most controversial portions -- including a proposal to strip away the collective bargaining rights of public employees -- into a separate piece of legislation that could be passed without Senate Democrats, who were still out of state.
Read more here.
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