MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Day by day, the rallies of thousands of teachers, firefighters and other public workers that propelled Wisconsin’s fight over union rights to national prominence have been giving way to smaller protests of mostly students.

When the protests erupted, the Capitol and streets around it were packed with government employees demanding that their rights not be taken away. Two weekend demonstrations after that attracted roughly 70,000 people each time. So many teachers came from the Madison district that was forced to close for four days.

But by the time Capitol police cleared the rotunda late Thursday, the crowd was down to about 50 hardcore demonstrators.

The face of the protesters changed in large part when police began allowing people to enter the building only as an equal number departed. That left mainly student activists, many of whom had slept on the granite floors for more than two weeks. The long wait for access has discouraged some people from attending protests, and teachers and other union members are now often present only in the afternoon.

“Clearly, having people continue to protest is essential to our efforts,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. The protesters have gotten Republicans’ attention, he said.

But they have not yet swayed Gov. Scott Walker from his attempt to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public workers, and 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state to prevent a vote on the measure entered a third week on the run in Illinois.

Walker informed state employee unions on Friday that he intends to issue layoff notices to 1,500 workers that would be effective on April 4 to realize cost savings that otherwise would come from a part of the stymied bill forcing those employees to pay more for their benefits.

State agencies have 15 days to develop layoff plans before individual employees are notified. Walker said in a statement from his office that the layoff notices could be rescinded if the Senate passes the bill before then.

The governor is negotiating with the Democratic senators on possible changes that would get them to return, even as Senate Republicans passed a resolution finding them in contempt and authorizing police to detain them and force them back.

While Democrats say the protesters have been an important part of their attempts to get concessions from Walker, some Republicans say the demonstrators aren’t doing the Democrats any favors.

Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend, who has repeatedly criticized the protesters, was confronted by a group of protesters earlier in the week before Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey intervened and allowed him to escape without incident.

“Protesters hurt the Dems because their uncivil behavior reflects badly on every schoolteacher and public employee in the state,” Grothman said. “And quite frankly I’m surprised the Democrat legislators haven’t asked them to leave.”

The number of protesters swelled again to hundreds on Friday over the noon hour, with another large rally planned for Saturday.

Erika Wolf, 25, said that while the number of protesters dwindled in recent days, they remain committed to keeping up the pressure.

“I think this can be sustained as long as it has to and I think it will be sustained, at least until July,” Wolf said.

So far the protests have been larger and more sustained than anything seen in Madison, even during the Vietnam era when the city was a focal point of sometimes violent confrontation, said Stuart Levitan, a Madison-based radio host and community historian.

Levitan, who was in the Capitol on Thursday night urging protesters to leave peacefully, said the demonstrations reflect a change in attitude by the protesters and support from police for their cause — protecting collective bargaining.

“The protesters knew that the police were not their enemy,” Levitan said. “You had this tremendous reservoir of trust that was built up over the last two weeks. To see the protesters chanting, ‘Thank you’ to the police, that’s pretty astonishing. The protesters also knew that the external perception of the protest could be seriously damaged if they acted out.”

One incident that got a lot of attention was when a Democratic lawmaker was tackled by police Thursday night as he tried to enter the Capitol, even though he showed his identification. But Rep. Nick Milroy of South Range said Friday that both he and the officer who took him to the ground were acting too aggressively.

“There was no harm, no foul in this incident,” said Milroy. “It may have looked violent on the video but I had a puffy jacket on.”

Inside the building Thursday night, Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs stood in the center of the rotunda with the last remaining demonstrators around him. A hush fell over the crowd as he explained the court’s order to vacate and pleaded with them to leave peacefully.

For more than three hours the protesters asked questions — even raising their hands to be recognized — and expressed their reservations about leaving. Tubbs said he didn’t want to arrest anyone, but they had to leave.

Finally, they did — singing “Solidarity Forever,” they filed out the door with Tubbs there shaking their hands and thanking them for their decision.

Some of those who left Thursday night returned the next day and were joined by hundreds of union members and teachers.

“We don’t want people to feel that this is going to go away, that it’s going to get old and that people are going to stop coming here,” Dawn Orfield, 44, a middle school psychologist from Green Bay who took a personal day to be in Madison. “It’s too important.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (53)
  1. Mr Unbelievable says:

    Lay them off, but make all ares of spending statewide feel the pain, too!

    1. joanne says:

      I am so very proud of the Gov. We in the private sector need some one to stand up. Why should teachers and STATE employees get so much and us so little. We all have to buy the same gas same food.Good for you Walker.

      1. scott says:

        they are willing to fight for what they have .And when they went to school for those jobs that is the way is was already setup. By taking it away without barganing its socilism

      2. jimmy says:

        This is a big lie told by big liars. Lets compare teachers to other 4 year degree professions. Engineers, Architect, Medical sales, show me a profession with a 4 year degree in the private sector not making more than a teacher. Now try finding one of these so called professionals before 10AM or after 3PM. any day of the week or after noon on Friday.. Come on Joanne you must have some facts to back up your hyperbole.

      3. Paul says:

        Yeah drag everyone down to your low level that should fix all the problems. Don’t blame your salary on others and wish them ill will. ???? Fix your own problem , get a better job. I’ll tell you teachers do not make much money. I have no college education and no specialized job but still make more than most professinal teachers. Teachers work hard for what they have. They take hours of work home every night to be ready for the next day. They work on the next weeks lesson plans on the weekends. I bet you do not have to do any of that when you leave work for the day. How would you like it if you have to do 3 hours of work at home every day OFF the clock? I seriously doubt you could be an effective teacher so you shouldn’t expect to be paid like one.

      4. Annoyed says:

        Why do you think State employees “get so much?” Do personally know any state employees you ‘get so much’ more than you? Are you just jealous? My husband is a state employee, and trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe you should do a little research on a subject you obviously know nothing about…Closed minds should have closed mouths…..

      5. Nica says:

        Joanne – they just lowered the requirements in Minnesota to become a teacher. If it’s such a great job where teachers “get so much” please feel free join the ranks of the teachers and show them how the job should REALLY be done. I would check out their salaries and benefits before you did that, however. I think you would be surprised to find the TRUTH about wages and benefits for teachers. People like you who spout off their mouth about things they really don’t know anything about just make your side look ignorant.

    2. Paul says:

      So many of you posting hear must have sad lives that you want to drag everyone down with you. Spend more time improving your own situation that wishing others had it as poorly as you do.

      1. Eric says:


        I think your the one you needs to back your statements with some facts. I have a 4 year degree in engineering and work for a private manufacturing company as a process engineer and work 7 am to 5 pm every day plus on call 24/7 andtook a 20% paycut over the last year and am seeming to put in longer hours because of all the layoffs causing us to be short staffed. I am sure my salary is still higher than most teachers but I also only get 9 holidays per year not not a 3 month vacation. If teachers worked year round and had their pay prorated to account for the extra time they would be on par to any other college degree.

  2. I Am Wondering Here says:

    WOW! Is this a governor — or a dictator?

    1. Victim Du Jour says:

      An Elected Governor and the Entire Elected Wisconsin Legislature is a “Republic”

      14 missing State Senators demanding things is a dictatorship.

      1. Ben says:

        That’s dumb. How is 14 missing State Senators a dictatorship. Do you know what a dictator is?

      2. Steve says:

        Those 14 missing Dems are more dictators than Walker. The WI government is on standby until they return; therefore, they are controlling the government.

        Do you see how?

        Walker was voted in.

      3. Mark says:

        @Steve: are they really controlling the government? Please. They just want to be able to negotiate with Walker who, like a dictator (BY DEFINITION), is refusing to listen to his constituents. I wish republicans actually knew enough world history to know what the words they use mean. “Socialism” “Dictator” “Hitler”, To baselessly throw these words around is disrespectful and minimalizes the plight of the victims of these governments.

  3. Jeepneasy says:

    This is extortion. Which I believe is illegal in most states.
    Again I will say, every Union member in the country should just sit down…then they will see what a vital part of our national economy is played by Union workers.

    1. jon says:

      yes they should sit down and teach us all a lesson. without government employees what would i do with my tax money

      1. the crux of the biscuit says:

        Next time it snows I can tell you what you WOULDN”T be doing. Drive over a bridge on your daily excursions? Flush a toilet? Drink water from a faucet? Turn on a light? The state would grind to a halt without roads, water and sewer. The vast majority of businesses would cease functioning once the roads were gone.

    2. GN says:

      I wander what would happen if all non-union private sector workers who are the real taxpayers would stop what they are doing and walk off the job for say a month or so. Government employees are 100% tax consumers.

    3. Mark says:

      Well said, Crux of the Biscuit. These people people take for granted so many things- drinking water, roads, bridges, libraries, schools, city sewer systems, snow plows, police departments, police officers, fire stations, fire fighters… I guess republicans don’t need those things. Or, they just disagree that the people providing those services deserve a living-wage.

  4. WIwoman1776 says:


  5. kevin says:

    so getting rid of unions. Cool. How does that grow the middle class?

  6. Scott Walker Rocks!!!!!! says:

    The people of Wisconsin elected Scott Walker get over it!

    1. Cab says:

      Im with Scott Walker!!!

    2. tiredandretired says:

      According to the polls, the people of Wisconsin already have gotten over it. Looks like a severe case of buyers’ remorse. Good thing the state has an anti-lemon law.

  7. Here you go says:

    Unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers’ wages….. Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally.Unions effectively tax these investments by negotiating higher wages for their members, thus lowering profits. Unionized companies respond to this union tax by reducing investment. Less investment makes unionized companies less competitive

  8. gracey says:

    Unions Yes!!!! power to the people!!!!!

    1. GN says:

      Sorry gracey, only 7% of the private sector is unionized. 36.4% of government employees are unionized. Is it “We the People” or “We the Government”?

  9. Here you go says:

    There was a time the working population was oppressed and needed someone or something to champion their cause. Today it is about greed and frivious complaints. The structure of the hierarchy makes Madoff look like Santa.

  10. marv says:

    I find it interersting that these public employees were deadly silent for the past (how many) months while their “Friends and neighbors” in the private sector were laid off, had benifits cut or lost their businesses. Now as they see their financial security being altered, they resort to likenilng leaders to Hitler, middle east dictators and the like. I see it like a child hating a parent who needs to make unpopular decisions for the benefit of the family.

    These folks need to go home. They need to get back to work. They need to start competing for their position – prove that they are worthy of the compensation or be replaced by someone that will.

    1. GN says:

      Good comment marv.

  11. Marv says:

    These people need to go home and let the democratic process work. Protests are allowed and even welcomed in order to let their feelings/beliefs known. This has been done. Accept that you are in the minority as foriegn as that may be. When the majority of voters feel the same way as you do, you’ll again have your way. Right now your majority is only in the protesters in Madison and in the media.

  12. John says:

    Face reality, Walker no longer has a majority. He is too stupid to know this.

    1. FEDUp says:

      Really John?? You need schooling. ;o) by a non union teacher!!

  13. LAMEARTICLE says:

    Dear Editor,

    I am a student at Minnesota State Mankato and a permanent resident of Hudson. During my time at Mankato I decided that I wanted to be a social studies teacher; to enliven the youth of America and to encourage their involvement in civics.

    I have dedicated time, effort and money beyond my classroom education to prepare me for this. I participated in varsity athletics for five years; developing discipline and leadership as a captain. I spent a summer as an unpaid intern teaching a supplementary summer school program; learning about ethnic, racial, and socio-economic diversity. I racked up credit card debt taking a study tour in Italy; learning the history of democracy and experiencing European perspective. I have also served on our student senate for two years; most notably as one of the students who walked to the Minnesota state capitol to raise awareness for student issues.

    I share this to show that I am a caring and committed individual. I am unafraid of self-sacrifice if it means impacting my community for the better. I did all of those things so that I would be a more experienced, well informed, and productive member of society in teaching and otherwise.

    I hope that one day I can return to Wisconsin; to teach and share the wisdom I gain through community, state, national and global experiences. I dream of reentering the state of Robert La Follette and feeding the next generation of progressive thinkers.

    The political diversity found throughout Wisconsin is vast. It’s also well balanced among party politics. I believe the three things that contribute to this are the reasonable and logical thinking of the citizens, the debate that accompanies such thinking, and the transparency of our state government. In the case of the bill restricting bargaining rights for unions, the governor’s refusal to negotiate and be honest with his opposition conflicts with two of the three things I believe make Wisconsin politics great.

    I have stood between children and gunfire, confronted the poverty of the inner city, and taught students with no parents, no food, or no home. However, some evils that I will not burden myself with are his unwillingness to discuss the topic and the apparent jollies he receives from provoking civic unrest. Because of Governor Walker, at least one highly dedicated and qualified graduate will not be returning home.

    1. GN says:

      Lenthy comment, but bottom line we in the private sector pay a large portion of our health care, contribute most if not all for our retirement benefits – in other words we don’t receive pensions. We don’t have the priviledge of retiring after 30 years. Because of the US economy and past legislation, many will have to stay on the job till we keel over dead. Read “marv’s” and “Here you go”, both contributed logical and rational comments.

  14. z says:

    how the gov. focus on cutting overseas spending….giving it away to the other countries (jobs)…and focus not so much here at home…where the U.S.A needs it!

  15. Z says:

    try that again….how about the gov. focus on cutting spending on overseas…instead of giving the jobs to overseas. He should focus more on here, keeping the jobs here…not cutting them…U.S.A….U.S.A…..

  16. Gary says:

    The only reason the protester’s have dwindled, is because they had to go home to their job’s, so they could make money, to feed & clothe their family’s. These people were” not” boughten protester’s.

  17. Rick says:

    Any one who thinks Walker is wrong doesn’t have a clue how to run a business. For anybody who says I went to college to teach that’s great. To those who call him a dictator, look up the word. For those who say impeach him, there is no crime. For those who think the department of education is doing a good job, check the national test scores since It was implemented vs how much money this department forces from your wallet. For those who who think the unions are a good thing, look up their salaries and compare to your’s. Here is final thought, the difference between a public employee union and a private sector union. Public employee union needs more money they force the government to take more from the public(taxes). When private sector unions need more money they raise dues and or cut their own budget. Take what ever you want from this but remember, the government is the only group that can take your money by force and they do when they need more money. Sounds like the public wokers unions.

  18. gene says:

    walker had won, but was to stupid to know it, Now we, the tax payer will suffer!

  19. Anonymous Coward says:

    Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is quoted: “We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to prove a point.”
    Sounds like the leaders think they have a dictatorship.

    “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    Government is about bringing people together and building consensus.
    The good people of Wisconsin elected the current leadership and now need to live with that decision. Like it or not. The people of Wisconsin can fix it in 2 years.

    The leaders in Wisconsin have done nothing to convince anyone that taking away collective bargaining solves any budget crisis.

    Maybe it’s time to have a real democracy and get rid of this Republic where only the political contributors (aka money) have the only voice?

    1. GN says:

      If you feel that way Anonymous Coward, you had better step away from the TV and do some real research. If you did you would find that the unions bought the elections two years ago. In other words, “Follow the Money”. If you do some real research, you will find that unions are a business built on a pyramid scheme. The provide very little service as compared to the private sector service sector and design, market, and sell products for income. The union leadership receives more money and compensation than most CEOs in the country. It is quite evident you have been brainwashed by the media and probably union leadership.

      1. Anonymous Coward says:

        Give me your facts and I will see if I come to the same conclusion as you.
        Convince me.
        Don’t put the onus on me to do the research. It’s you saying you know better because you have seen the data.
        Bye the bye. You make bold assumption that I own a TV. . . Not everyone does you know.

  20. The Voice of Reason says:

    I was in Madison yesterday. I have been following it since day 1 from Faux News to Huffington and Mother Jones.

    1. Walker made this about the budget. The Unions were quick to negotiate (mind you they had taken furloughs in years past). Yet somehow Walker forgets you never get exactly get what you want in a democracy. He himself ought to learn what the term”bargain” means. If it were about the budget this would have been over long ago.
    2. Scott claims this is about jobs. He made a campaign promise to create 250k jobs in WI in four years. He turns down funding for high speed rail (which would create jobs), threatens to lay off teachers, and cuts enormous spending for government jobs. Basically alienating 175,000 workers to the point where they would all be willing to walk off the job makes his promise of “job creation” look disingenuous at best. BUT his plan is to use it to give the Koch brothers essentially free power plants, without bargaining for the best deal for Wisconsin.
    3. Polls have indicated that the People of Wisconsin are not convinced Walker is right for them either. Not even those who voted for him. I have talked to many of these people myself. His objective is to defund the Democratic party.
    The solution is simple:
    -Recall Walker and the three house members
    -Eliminate PACs and ghost funding for candidates all together
    -Cap campaign war chests and let the best man (or woman) win

    1. HELPER says:

      Despite how perfectly you frame what the college dropout Walker has done it won’t matter… Republicans won’t believe the truth if its staring them in the face. They have grown accustom to all the lies and mistruths they hear as sound-bites from their tv’s and talk radio.

      Its OK because the majority of the American people now see the truth about what ‘Republican” and “Tea-party” means… ie. standing up for corporations and not the American people. Protecting huge corporate profits over worker rights…

      OBAMA 2012!!

      1. NObama says:

        I bet you are one of those that has a shrine in your bedroom, posters of obama above your bed!

  21. WOW says:

    Some of you libs have no clue you really do need someone to tell you what to do where to go and tell you how to breath, I am amazed how dum some of you sound,

    1. John M says:

      You should have finished high school. Your trailer would probably be a double wide if you did…

      1. Walker is right says:

        Ok John M you can exhale now!

      2. NObama says:

        Inhale exhale, inhale exhale!

  22. DaveM says:

    Which uber-liberal WCCO editor selected and cropped that photo to show state troopers standing above a “Kill” sign (which I’m sure said “kill the bill”)? Talk about twisted, slanted news reporting.

  23. Rita says:

    Perhaps the governor should spend a little less money flying around the state holding “Press Only” conferences with 45 minute advance notice (he has been to Eau Claire twice in the past week) and more time trying to work this situation out. In the eyes of many he is becoming a school yard bully who will do anything to get his way ultimately at the expense of our hard earned dollars.

  24. mike says:

    recall scott walker he is in bed with the koch brothers and all the rich,dems will be in charge soon ill bet u . this guy is a nutcaseget him out of there.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Watch & Listen LIVE