Upwards of 70,000 rally at state Capitol - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Upwards of 70,000 rally at state Capitol


MADISON (WKOW) -- Sunday, more rallies planned in downtown Madison in Wisconsin's budget battle, but it seems demonstrators may be facing some weather.

Police say nearly 70,000 people demonstrated at the Wisconsin State Capitol Saturday, most to protest the Governor's bill that would strip public workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights.

For the first time, a large contingent of Tea Party supporters joined the demonstrations, voicing their support for the Governor's fiscal plan.

"It is now that the government we elected is allowed to govern as we demanded!" shouted conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna to the Tea Party crowd.

According to the Madison Police Department, 60,000 people gathered outside the capitol building with another 8,000 inside, which is easily the largest crowd yet as the protests continue through its fifth day. Department of Administration estimates there were 50,000 people outside and 5,000 inside.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain says there were no arrests Saturday. He would not comment on how large the tea party contingent was, but union supporters clearly outnumbered them.

The demonstrations are beginning to draw some pro-labor support from out of state, as teachers and other workers fear similar budget cuts where they live.

"Iowa teachers could be next," said Virginia Drier, a teacher from Iowa City.

Drier added, as most labor supporters have for several days, that the rally is not about pay, but about rights.

Two of Wisconsin's most influential public employee unions, AFSCME and WEAC, announced this week they would agree to all of the Governor's fiscal demands, just not concessions regarding collective bargaining rights.

The crowd is likely to be smaller on Sunday. A snowstorm is expected to hit Wisconsin overnight.


MADISON (WKOW, AP) -- Police are setting up perimeters around Capitol square as thousands are expected in downtown Madison Saturday.

Protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol were already walking around as early as 9:00 Saturday morning. Some were wearing signs taped to their backs that proclaim they're peaceful.

The pro-labor protesters say they're concerned that the arrival of tea party activists on Saturday will disrupt what have been four days of peaceful protests.

Forty-four-year-old Sue Anderson of Prairie Du Sac says she'll get between anyone who tries to start a fight, but she says union protesters won't start one because they're mellow.

Outside the building, labor organizers have designated people to look for trouble and prevent members of their group from being drawn into fights. They're also looking out for signs that might incite tea party activists.

The Walker supporters are shouting, "Pass the bill," while the pro-labor group chants "Kill the bill."

Pro-labor protesters have already been at the Capitol for four days. Walker's supporters arrived Saturday with signs reading, "I was at work yesterday. Where were you?" and "Sorry, we're late Scott. We work for a living."

Wisconsin State Senator Scott Fitzgerald held a press conference in the Capitol Saturday morning. Sen. Fitzgerald reiterated his call for the Democratic Wisconsin state senators to return to the Capitol. He said he is willing to discuss with the Democrats what it will take for them to return but is not willing to negotiate any part of the bill itself.

Sen. Fitzgerald said that Gov. Scott Walker will comment more on collective bargaining rights when he makes his budget address but says that local government will not be able to balance budgets unless collect bargaining rights are stripped.

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