Capitol rallies continue to be peaceful - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Capitol rallies continue to be peaceful, but violent history not forgotten


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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison police say between 40,000 and 50,000 people demonstrated at the Capitol Saturday, nearly all opposed to the Governor's controversial budget repair bill.

According to the Department of Administration and state Capitol police, crowds reached about 12,000 at their peak.

The reason for the large discrepancy in crowd estimate between the two organizations was not immediately clear. Madison police estimates have been larger than the DOA's on the previous two Saturdays.

Capitol police said there were no arrests, and crowds continue to be peaceful.

But over the long history of political demonstrations in the city of Madison, peaceful protests have not always been the case.

"Any parade we went on there was a chance some group would split off and start throwing bricks through windows and stuff like that," said UW Madison professor Joe Elder, referring to the Vietnam War protests in the 1960s.

Elder was teaching on campus in October 1967, when a student protest turned violent, and Madison police beat protesters with clubs.

"I can recall I was giving a lecture, and suddenly somebody burst into the room and said they're tear-gassing people across the street," said Elder.

One of the biggest differences between the protests then and now, Elder said, is the feeling of rapport between officers and demonstrators.

There have been at least 16 arrests since the protests began, but both sides say there is a mutual respect.

"We have a rapport with [the protesters] and we want to continue that," said Capitol police Chief Charles Tubbs.

Another major difference between the two eras: the size of the crowd.

"I don't think there's been anything in Wisconsin history as big as this," said Elder of the protests against Governor Walker's bill.

Elder said anti-war protesters were lucky to get about 5,000 demonstrators at a rally.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Roughly 12,000 people came to the Capitol Saturday, most in protest of Gov. Walker's budget repair bill.

The Capitol Building closed at 4 p.m. According to the Department of Administration, there were 7,385 people who entered the Capitol. The crowd outside was approximately 12,000 at its peak. 

There were no arrests as the crowd was again very cooperative. 

The Capitol will reopen at 8 a.m. on Sunday and will close at 4 p.m.   


MADISON (WKOW) -- Nearly four thousand protesters were inside the Capitol Saturday by mid-afternoon, in protest of Gov. Walker's budget repair bill.

As of 1 p.m., 3,811 members of the public had entered the Capitol via the North and South Hamilton entrances, according to the Department of Administration. All visitors were screened for weapons before going in. According to the DOA's blog, there have been no incidents or arrests thus far as the crowd continues to be "very cooperative."

The Assembly, Senate and Supreme Court are not in session today. There are demonstrations on the ground floor rotunda. The Capitol will close at 4 p.m., as part of regular business hours.

Capitol police say they do not have an estimate at this time of the crowds outside the Capitol.

Meanwhile, in an interview with 27 News Saturday, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he, and the other 13 senators have no plans to return. They've been in Illinois for weeks to stall a vote on Gov. Walker's budget repair bill.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Rallies at the Capitol over collective bargaining rights continue today after nearly 3 weeks of protesting. The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO has scheduled a rally on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Madison Police say last weekend's rally was the largest yet. They estimated 70,000 to 100,000 demonstrators gathered to protest a bill that would strip most public workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights.

A court decision Thursday called for more access to the Capitol while setting a strict opening and closing time so protesters cannot sleep there after hours. Protesters left in an orderly fashion when the building closed at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Gov. Scott Walker continues to stand firmly behind the bill. He says the cuts and ending collective bargaining for public workers are better than what's happening in other states.

"Whether it's in the south or northeast, where they're just cutting, we're giving local government the tools to avoid layoffs," said Gov. Walker in a one-on-one interview with WKOW.

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