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Wisconsin Capitol Protest Leads To Two Dozen Arrests As Police Crack Down On Anti-GOP Demonstration

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Police in Madison, Wis., arrest an elderly protester on Wednesday. Mass arrests of demonstrators began in the state Capitol after a federal court ruling that a permit is now required to protest in the rotunda. (AP Photo) | AP

Police made numerous arrests inside the Wisconsin's Capitol building on Wednesday, more than two years after tens of thousands of Wisconsinites filled the rotunda in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget reforms.

The Associated Press reported that Capitol Police arrested "about two dozen people" who were in the building to take part in a weekly tradition called the Solidarity Singalong, an anti-Republican display that began during the 2011 budget protests.

The arrests mark the first time Capitol Police have clamped down on protesters since William Conley, the same federal judge who recently blocked a controversial state anti-abortion law, ruled that larger groups of protesters would need a permit to gather.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, some of the protesters arrested were as old as 85.

"The Capitol Police are upholding the law to ensure the building can be shared by all citizens who come to the Capitol," said Stephanie Marquis, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Administration.

Police posted a handwritten sign in the middle of the rotunda to discourage demonstrators from gathering in the building. About 60 people resisted and stayed -- 22 of them were arrested. Others vowed to return on Thursday, according to the AP.

"We are in the Capitol singing, what is the big deal?" a protester named Kim Krus asked, according Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

During the mass protests in early 2011, Capitol Police took a more lenient approach to arrests under the leadership of Chief Charles Tubbs, an appointee of former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. When Tubbs left the force in 2012, Walker appointed a more hard-line chief, Dave Erwin.

Erwin attracted attention when he arrested a number of protesters for holding signs in the Capitol not long after he took his new job in the fall of 2012. When a progressive state legislator asked Erwin for an explanation for the uptick in arrests, he walked out of the meeting.

At the time, Marquis said Erwin left the meeting "because of the unprofessional behavior."

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