Protests in Wisconsin continue to surge Friday, even as reports from Thursday evening claimed as many as 25,000 demonstrators had taken to the state's capitol building in Madison. Residents are turning out in droves to oppose a bill they view as an anti-union effort that would infringe on the rights of state workers, proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
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As dissenters streamed into the halls of the capitol building Thursday, Democratic state senators fled the state in a move to block a vote on the measure. They ended up at a hotel in Northern Illinois, where they remain, at least for the time being. The state's Assembly has planned a vote for Friday.
While many, including President Obama, have characterized the bill as an "assault on unions," Gov. Walker maintained Friday that his legislation, which would strip state employees of their collective bargaining rights and force them to pay a larger share of the cost of health care and pensions, was a "modest proposal."
In an interview Thursday night, Walker told Fox News that the protests were serving as a cohesive force for Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.
"If anything, I think it's made the Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate stronger," he said. "They're not going to be bullied. They're not going to be intimidated."
Walker has the support of some in GOP leadership, such as Speaker of the House John Boehner, who on Thursday released a statement commending the governor for "daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government." Some national Democrats have taken the side of the protesters, however, as the DNC has ramped up their pro-union organizing in Wisconsin and other states.