Reeling from the shock of last night’s suddenly convened Wisconsin state Republicans’ committee meeting and rushed passage of Governor Walker’s stripped down budget bill, to include only revoking collective bargaining rights for unions as well as reductions in pensions, Wisconsin protesters are already lining up outside of the Capitol in Madison in anticipation of early morning rallies.
The Cap Times reports:
Wisconsin workers will be gathering in a dozen cities across the state on Thursday morning to protest Senate passage of a bill curtailing collective bargaining rights, organizers say.
The rallies are being organized by the state AFL-CIO.
The biggest rally will be at 9 a.m. at the State Capitol, where thousands of protesters surged into the building Wednesday night when the Senate quickly passed the bill.
“Gov. Scott Walker has chosen to take on the people who teach our kids to read, who plow our roads during blizzards, who help the sick and the infirm live with dignity, and who rush into burning buildings,” the union organization said in an e-mail press release.
“None of these are people who give up easily,” the release said.
Democrats charge that the bill was passed in violation of open meeting laws and will make challenges to the legality of the proceedings today with the Attorney General, who has previously ruled to uphold open meeting laws. Wisconsin’s open meetings law generally requires 24 hour notice, especially if the issues are of public interest and not routine or expected. Fmr U.S. Sen. Feingold said of the passage, “Last night will be remembered as a black mark on the history of Wisconsin government.”
While Republicans crow about pushing this bill through in a draconian, late move last night, the majority of the public is against stripping collective bargaining rights from union members and many questions regarding the legality of the senate’s passage of the bill remain, including the legality of the hastily convened meeting as well as the failure to use a quorum when the fiscal matter of pensions was included in the bill. While Walker labeled his union busting bill a “budget bill”, he and the senate Republicans abandoned this pretense last night when they passed the bill without a quorum of 20 as needed on fiscal matters.
While many protesters were suggesting a walk-out was imminent, Walker’s original bill allows firing of state workers who join strikes and/or walk-outs, though the firefighters and the police may be exempt from this provision as they were not targeted in the original union busting portion of the bill. The killing of collective bargaining for some unions but not for all is also another potential legal pitfall, as the state Constitution rules that collective bargaining cannot be stripped from one union while exempting others. It’s been suggested that Walker exempted the firefighters and police because they were supporters of his during his campaign.
Update: 10:30 AM Eastern Time: 150 protesters just entered the Capitol.
Update: 10:48 AM Eastern: Riot gear being unloaded. State troopers not allowing media to assemble according to twitter reports. Command post at Capitol: “no reps, no staff, no public and no local police are being allowed into the Capitol.” Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said city officers will go into the Capitol if asked to assist but will not physically remove people without an order from Chief Noble Wray.
Firefighters march through crowd:
Update: 11:03 AM Eastern: Still not being let in Capitol as police do security checks. Protesters marching outside, Reverend Jesse Jackson urging them to stay peaceful with police, whose rights they are also marching for.
Update: 2:01 PM Eastern: Rumors that arrests have taken place at Wisconsin State Capitol by state troopers. Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have raised over $200,000 in the last 24 hours. A 5 PM WI time rally is planned. Protesters rally outside Capitol:
Video of the protests during the assembly meeting today:
Update 5:40 PM: Assembly passed without debate. Protesters chanted “Shame, shame, shame!” as Republicans shuffled out of room. In spite of earlier eye witness reports, a department spokesman said there have been no arrests today or Wednesday. However, Isthmus reports:
This morning, speakers described officers forcibly removing people from the Assembly chamber. One of those testifying was an indignant Mark Clear, president of the Madison city council. “We are still not being let into our building!” Clear said.
A UW Milwaukee student described an officer hitting a protester in the face and drawing blood; another speaker said a cop closed a door on his leg. A woman with a trembling voice described being “assaulted” by an officer from the Division of Criminal Investigation, who pinned her arm and accused her of trying to grab his gun. “This is what happens when democracy falls apart!” she said.
With stone-faced officers standing right behind her at the King Street entrance, another woman pleaded with the police to “make a choice and move aside.” There were other signs that Wisconsin’s civil war has intensified. Across the street from the Capitol, firefighters picketed in front of M&I Bank, protesting its supposed support for Scott Walker (the bank has since denied any official support). One of the firefighters came to the microphone to urge M&I’s customers to withdraw their money.