"Hey Scotty, remember me?! I'm back!" a protestor screamed as he entered the Wisconsin capitol, minutes after news broke that republicans found a way to pass part of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's controversial budget bill.
Individuals ran, literally, towards the capitol from all directions as word spread primarily through Facebook and Twitter. Thousands were gathered outside of the capitol within an hour of the news and crowds grew exponentially by the minute. But the news was vague, and many did not know what exactly was happening inside the secure doors of the hearing room.
"It's just sneaky back door politics," Angelita Renteria, a University of Wisconsin-Madison law student said. Renteria arrived at 5:30 and was one of the first in the capitol doors. "I'm ashamed that democracy looks like this."
Protestors were only able to enter the capitol through one door between around 5:30 and 7:30 pm, where they had to go through airport-like security. The process only allowed for a handful of people to make it through the doors every few minutes, and groups began to yell "let them in!"
The few hundred that made it inside the capitol before six gathered outside the hearing doors, chanting "shame" "you lied to Wisconsin" and "union power." The same cheers could be heard from the protestors gathered outside.
Various emotions were evident in the overflowing crowd: many crying, a few in a self defined state of shock, some angry, and everyone a bit lost for words.
"No one knows what's going on," Lyn Pilch, a local business owner said as she flipped through texts from friends outside the capitol. "I'm just trying to maintain my phone battery and trying to catch up [on news], you feel like you are shut out and we are trying to connect with each other and try to figure out what is happening."
Indeed, the connectivity of the protestors is what got hundreds into the Capitol in unconventional ways. Some senators helped protestors enter through windows and protestors found a way to open the bathroom windows as cheers of "whose house? OUR HOUSE!" echoed through the barricaded doors. Police locked the bathrooms soon after.
At 7:30, the loud speaker in the rotunda announced "senate and assembly has closed unless you have permission to stay you must leave the building immediately." The announcement was barely audible over the cheering of demonstrators and no one exited the building.
Doors opened again about an hour later to erupting cheers, Ian's Pizza, snacks, water, medical supplies and thousands of protestors. Within ten minutes, the rotunda was packed shoulder to shoulder with spirited and peaceful demonstrators, drum circles, creative signs and even peanut butter and jelly sandwich making stations.
And protestors have no intention of leaving soon, many chanting "as long as it takes" and "we won't go away."
This determined group includes many students, who are in their final days of exams before spring break. Anna Harty, a junior at UW-Madison heard the news at 5:59. "I thought they would pull some kind of trickery," she said. Harty ran to the capitol and has no plans of leaving, even though she has a midterm tomorrow. "I have some [study] stuff here," she said, holding an overstuffed backpack.
Despite the evening's news, protestors are maintaining hope that their voices will be heard by Governor Walker.
"What happened today is shameful and disgusting. It's an attack on collective bargaining but also on Wisconsin democracy," Bryon Eagon, a recent UW-Madison grad said. "What tonight proves is that people are passionate and organized... and they will not be defeated."
Individuals continue to rush to the capitol at approximately 10 pm Wednesday when this was submitted.
Follow Talya Minsberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tminsberg