Madison protesters allowed by police to stay overnight
JSOnline Feb. 27, 2011
By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel
Faced with several hundred drum-beating, dancing and chanting demonstrators who refused to leave the state Capitol after the doors were shut at 4 p.m. Sunday, police decided to let the crowd spend the night and continue the protest against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill.
“The people who are in the building will be allowed to stay,” Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said Sunday night. “There will be no arrests unless people violate the law.”
It was unclear how long the protesters might be able to maintain their nightly vigil. The policy will be reviewed, Tubbs said.
The state’s Department of Administration had sought to bring a sense of business-as-usual to the Capitol by establishing regular hours.
Officials said they were trying to clean the building after nearly two weeks of continuous protests.
Tubbs announced the decision to let the protesters stay after he saw how they moved aside while work crews went about cleaning the Capitol, including mopping and polishing floors.
“People are very cooperative,” Tubbs said. “I appreciate that.”
It was yet another surreal moment in the continuing saga of political chaos at the Capitol.
“We delivered a message to Gov. Walker. We’ll continue to be here to kill this bill,” said Peter Rickman, 28, of Neenah, during a news conference held shortly before the doors shut.
Protesters said they were prepared to be peacefully arrested to make their point that the Capitol should remain open.
* Visitors to the Capitol will enter only at the King St. entrance.
* Visitors will be admitted to meet with legislators and other officials, to attend committee hearings and to observe the state Assembly and Senate if they are in session.
* Protesters will be allowed in the building, but crowd size will be adjusted to accommodate the cleaning crews, the preparation for Tuesday’s joint legislative session and the number of protesters who remained in the building.
* Police will continue the practice, begun on Saturday, of disallowing sleeping bags, blankets and animals (other than service animals) into the building.