GOP Senators Pass Anti-Union Bill In Wisconsin, Opposition Storms Capitol
UPDATED: 7:30 p.m. PST: An estimated 5000 people were in the Capitol Wednesday night with thousands more swarming the area. Cars outside honked to the beat of the chants inside as sleeping bags and supplies were carried in.
After Republican Senators in Wisconsin found a way to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers Wednesday night, appalled demonstrators stormed past police and into the Capitol.
Thousands of angry citizens chanted "Shame!, Shame!, Shame!" "Occupy!", "Recall!" and "General Strike!" after they heard news that the chamber's 18 Republicans had stripped out the fiscal portion of Gov. Scott Walker's legislation, bypassing the need for a quorum.
Witnesses said the decibel level was as loud as it had been at any point since the battle began last month.
Senate Democrats heard about the 18-1 special committee vote from Illinois, where Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller quickly released a statement saying:
"In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people. Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government."
Local police reacted calmly to the charging crowd, allowing people to pass and refraining from making any arrests. Demonstrators immediately circulated literature advocating a general strike of state workers. An emergency meeting of union leaders was reportedly called.
After several minutes, police asked the demonstrators to leave, at which point a response of "Hell no, we won't go!" echoed through the rotunda. Cars blocked the street adjacent to the building and honked their horns. Demonstrators then vowed to sleep in the building.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported: "The bill, which has sparked unprecedented protests and drawn international attention, now heads to the Assembly, which is to take it up at 11 a.m. Thursday. The Assembly, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans, passed an almost identical version of the bill Feb. 25."
The Democatic senators, known as the Wisconsin 14, said they will return Thursday after the assembly vote:
"State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said Wednesday night he attempted to drive back from Illinois to Madison to get to the Capitol before Republicans passed the measure.
'This is on the Republicans' heads right now,' he said. 'If they decide to kill the middle class, it's on them.'"