Wisconsin Capital Building Protest Village Closed for Cleaning
Wisconsin Capitol protests may end, but movement is just starting
by Ben Jones
MADISON — As difficult as it is to evict hundreds of determined protesters from the Capitol, more difficult still will be stopping their movement.
That’s the message protesters repeated again Sunday as officials tried unsuccessfully to clear out the Capitol of hundreds of demonstrators opposed to Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate bargaining rights.
Demonstrators resisted, and Capitol Police relented Sunday evening, allowing demonstrators to spend the night. Whilethe future of the camp-out at the Capitol beyond Sunday is uncertain, demonstrators say their movement will remain strong.
“I really don’t think (authorities) are going to kill the movement,” said demonstrator Kai Fernandez of Madison. “I think Wisconsin is showing it pretty clear from a number of groups that they don’t support this bill.
“It’s going to be a long process, there’s no question about it, but it’s a process and we’re continuing to participate.”
The hundreds of people who sleep nightly in the Capitol are dwarfed in numbers by the tens of thousands of people who come to demonstrate for day rallies then leave.
But these bleary-eyed demonstrators have been a center of energy for the opposition to Walker’s plan, which would eliminate the bargaining power of most public workers while forcing them to contribute more to their health insurance and pensions.
The Capitol’s temporary residents have transformed the stately granite-and-marble structure into a “protest village” wallpapered in protest signs and banners.
The around-the-clock effort appeared to be coming to a close Sunday as officials moved to clear and clean the Capitol, removing the demonstrators and their thousands of signs.
Officials hoped to return the building to normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
But that effort stalled as the demonstrators refused to leave, continuing their chants and marches.
Dylan Moriarty of Madison said ultimately, closing the Capitol won’t change a thing.
“The occupation of the Capitol is an incredible thing and is really, really cool but I think the central meaning of this, why we’re here is to kill the bill,” he said. “While shutting down the Capitol might kill the momentum temporarily but we’ll be back at 8 a.m. the next day.
“We’ll be back.”
Some protesters said their next effort is mobilizing a recall effort against Walker and Republican lawmakers who back his bill.
Jeremy Ryan of Madison said he is executive director of a new group called www.defendingwisconsin.org that aims to do just that. His group is starting to raise funds for advertising and field offices. Walker, however, cannot be recalled until he has served one year in office.
“The movement is going to keep going and the movement is not going to stop,” Ryan said. “And even after (Walker) is removed, the movement is still not going to stop.
“We are going to stay around to make sure this never happens again. I like the energy, I like being at the Capitol but I don’t want to have to be here again, if you know what I mean.”
Ben Jones writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton