UPDATE: Protesters Shout Down Wis. Republicans After Vote

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 11:45 a.m.

Wis. police say 2 arrested at Capitol on Thursday

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State officials say two people were arrested at the Capitol as they tried to force their way inside.

Department of Administration officials said they were arrested Thursday morning as protesters demanded to be let inside. Police opened the Capitol about three hours late because they dragged protesters out of the Assembly lobby and then performed a security sweep of the entire building.

DOA spokesman Tim Donovan said on Thursday no one had been arrested. On Friday morning he said he had learned two people were arrested as they tried to push past police and enter through a side entrance before the building opened.

Donovan says they will not be charged.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 4:40 p.m.

Protesters thank Democrats at Wisconsin Capitol

By DINESH RAMDE
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Protesters outside the Wisconsin Assembly are thanking Democrats as they emerge from the chamber after passage of an explosive bill taking away public workers' collective bargaining rights.

The Democrats voted against the bill, which passed 53-42 Thursday. Four Republicans joined the Democrats to oppose it.

The protesters are exchanging high-fives with the Democrats and chanting "thank you" as they wind through the crowd.

Right after the vote, the protesters yelled "Shame!" as Republicans left the Assembly under heavy guard.

Dozens of state troopers, state special agents and local police had formed multiple lines to block the protesters if they tried to rush the chamber, but no one made a move toward the officers, and all the lawmakers left the chamber safely.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 4:30 p.m.

Protesters shout down Wis. Republicans after vote

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Hundreds of protesters faced off with police outside the Wisconsin state Assembly ahead of a vote on the GOP's contentious union bill, but in the end all it amounted to was a lot of noise.

Protesters surged toward the chamber as the vote neared, chanting "kill the bill" and "recall." Dozens of state troopers, state special agents and local police formed multiple lines to block them if they tried to rush the chamber, upping the tension.

After word came the vote had taken place, the protesters upped the volume, yelling "shame!" as Republicans left under heavy guard. They exchanged high-fives with Democrats and chanted "thank you" as they wound through the crowd.

No one made a move toward police and all the lawmakers left the chamber without incident.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 11:30 a.m.

Police remove protesters from Wisconsin Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police in Wisconsin have carried dozens of protesters out of a hallway leading to the Assembly at the state Capitol in Madison.

At least 100 people have gathered outside the chamber, where Representatives are expected to vote on an explosive bill that takes away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Police began removing the protesters about an hour before the Assembly was scheduled to vote at 11 a.m. Thursday. The vote was delayed briefly while the building was locked down as police did a security review.

The Assembly can't meet if the building isn't open to the public. The lockdown ended just before 11:30 a.m.

About 200 people spent the night in the Capitol in protest over swift and unexpected passage of the bill by the Senate on Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 11:12 a.m.

From the DOA: Capitol now open Thursday

The Wisconsin State Capitol is now open following an assessment of building security requirements for the day and after the day’s security plan was put into place.

Entrances for Thursday are North Hamilton Street and King Street at ground level. Visitors will be subject to security screening and items listed as prohibited from being brought into the building in previous blog entries are still prohibited. Capitol staff, people with disabilities and credentialed members of the news media may enter the Capitol at the ground level Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard entrance.

The Capitol will close at 6 p.m. or whenever the final official open meeting or session for the day has concluded, if it is later than 6 p.m. All visitors will be required to leave the building when it closes for the night.

– Capitol Police – Interior Branch

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 10:40 a.m.

Protesters carried out of Assembly hallway

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police have carried out more than a dozen protesters from a hallway in front of the state Assembly chamber in advance of a vote on an explosive bill that takes away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Police began removing the protesters about an hour before the Assembly was scheduled to vote on the bill. However, when the Assembly would convene was unclear since the building was under lockdown as police did a security review.

The Assembly can't meet if the building isn't open to the public.

About 200 people spent the night in the Capitol in protest over swift and unexpected passage of the bill by the Senate on Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 9:20 a.m.

Opening of Capitol delayed for security review

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The opening of the Wisconsin state Capitol has been delayed as police do a security review.

It was unclear if the Capitol would be open in time for the Assembly to meet as planned at 11 a.m. to pass a bill that cleared the Senate on Wednesday taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

The Assembly cannot convene unless the building is open to the public.

Department of Administration spokesman Tim Donovan says he does not know when the security check will be done or whether it will completed in time for the Assembly to meet.

Dozens of people slept overnight in the building after about 7,000 flooded in following the Senate's unexpected vote Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 9:05 a.m.

From the DOA website: Capitol opening delayed Thursday

The Wisconsin State Capitol did not open at 8 a.m. Thursday morning due to events the previous night when thousands of people entered the building after the Capitol was to have been closed for the evening and more than 200 people remained overnight.

The Capitol will not open until a law enforcement assessment of the building and today’s security requirements have been completed.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011--- 8:55 p.m.

Thousands of protesters converge on Wis. Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Thousands of people have poured into the Wisconsin state Capitol following a surprise vote by Senate Republicans to pass a bill taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Police gave up guarding one of the main entrances to the Capitol on Wednesday, allowing people to come in unabated. Capitol security repeatedly asked protesters to get off of second floor walkways because they were concerned over their structural security.

The Capitol has been the scene of protests for three weeks, with hundreds of demonstrators spending the night until last week when they left under a court order.

Department of Administration spokesman Tim Donovan says the goal of police is to ensure people's safety.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 7:35 p.m.

Wis. protesters condemn collective bargaining vote

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- About 200 protesters chanted "occupy" and "general strike" as they vowed to remain inside the Wisconsin Capitol after a vote by the state Senate to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees.

The Senate hastily passed the bill 18-1 on Wednesday evening, setting off the latest protests. They have gathered the past three weeks, often in the thousands, to protest the measure proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Some protesters tried to gain access to the Senate gallery during the vote, but were denied access by Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs.

Protest organizer Erika Wolfe told the crowd that legal options were being evaluated.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 -- 4:30 p.m.
By NBC15's Dana Brueck

The nation has watched history unfold the last three weeks with thousands of protesters handcrafting countless signs. Those signs will become a part of the historical record. The Wisconsin Historical Society as well as the Smithsonian will keep some of them.

The state took a number of calls from people about the signs. Now, the public's getting the first chance to save them.

The rotunda has a familiar sound from the last few weeks. The voices of protesters still rumble through the halls -- days after the Capitol walls were stripped of countless signs.

All of those posters and banners have ended up in the basement of a state office building where the public can pick and choose what's worth keeping.

"Out of an abundance of sensitivity for how deeply people feel about this, a plan was devised to get them all collected in one place so people could come and retrieve their signs," Tim Donovan, a spokesperson for Capitol Police, says.

The doors opened for the first time at one o'clock.

Sandra Muesegades, a nurse from Sheboygan, was the first one to arrive in a desperate search for her organization's banners.

"It's an image that is represented... it's not so much the poster but all of the people and all of our patients that are behind that."

Grace Johns wants the signs to serve as a reminder of the cause she supports.

"I was looking for some specific signs that I saw in the Capitol day after day that I really loved .. and just really kind of got to me as I saw them... I found one of the big ones that I really wanted, and now I'm just kind of seeing what else there is."

Others simply came looking for a piece of history.

"Something to show my kids, something to show my grandkids of what took place when I was living in Madison, Wisconsin," John Lubarsky says.

And what took place is being recorded by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It, too, will rifle through what's left behind after the public has had its pick.

"We want it to be representative, but we don't know what that means yet," Society Director Ellsworth Brown says.

If you want a sign, stop by One West Wilson Street in Madison. Room B-257 is in the basement. The room will be open 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. through Friday.

Below is a statement from the Smithsonian about its interest:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has an ongoing commitment to document the spirit of American democracy and the American political process, including how people express their points-of-view through political rallies, demonstrations and protests.

This week, the Museum is sending a representative to evaluate materials related to both sides of the ongoing public debate in Wisconsin. This is part of the museum’s long tradition of documenting how Americans participate in the political process. The Museum collects from contemporary events because many of these materials are ephemeral and if not collected immediately, are lost to the historical record.

The museum's political history collection includes objects related to presidential history and political campaigning, as well as the history of the White House and first ladies, civil rights, women's suffrage and reform movements, and labor history. The collection includes objects that are more than 225 years old, from the desk Jefferson used to draft the Declaration of Independence, the inkwell Lincoln used to write the Emancipation Proclamation to protest signs carried during the 1963 March on Washington.

Recent acquisitions since 2008 include materials from the Obama/McCain Presidential campaigns, immigration demonstrations on the National Mall, gay marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell campaigns,” the Tea Party rally in March 2010, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity“ and most recently from the American Conservative Union’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in February.

Smithsonian
National Museum of American History

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 8, 2011 --- 6:45 a.m.

Wis. protesters can retrieve signs throughout week

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Officials are giving protesters until the end of the week to pick up signs they left hanging on the walls of the Capitol.

Department of Administration officials will have signs ready for retrieval starting Tuesday in room B257. The room will be open for three hours each day beginning at 1 p.m. through Friday.

Any signs not retrieved from protesters after Friday will be offered to the State Historical Society for preservation or thrown away.

All signs still hanging on Capitol walls were removed over the weekend.

Officials claim the signs may have damaged the marble and estimate repairs to the Capitol could cost anywhere between $350,000 and $7.5 million, depending on the extent of the damage inside and on the Capitol lawn.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, March 7, 2011 --- 5:05 p.m.

From the DOA:
Procedures for Retrieving Signs

MADISON – Individuals interested in retrieving signs removed from the State Capitol can do so at 1 West Wilson St., Room B257, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8, 2001 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. The room will be open to the public from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. through Friday.

Representatives from the State Historical Society will be on hand to observe, but will not remove any signs for preservation until after 4:00 p.m. on Friday.

Signs remaining after the public and Historical Society have taken those they would like, will be discarded.

A Department of Administration representative will be available on-site from 1:00-1:45 Tuesday to assist media.

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UPDATED Monday, March 7, 2011 --- 11:00 a.m.

From the DOA website:
Camping prohibited on Capitol Grounds

The Wisconsin Administrative Code prohibits camping on the State Capitol grounds and, effective today (March 7, 2011), camping on the Capitol grounds will not be permitted.

“Camp” or “camping” means the use of a shelter such as a tent, trailer, motor vehicle, tarpaulin, bedroll or sleeping bag for temporary residence or sleeping purposes.

Anyone found camping on the State Capitol grounds in violation of this rule will be cited and removed.

-Capitol Police

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Permits Required for Planned or Organized Events at Capitol

Organizations planning events at the Wisconsin State Capitol are reminded that requests must be submitted in advance of the planned event and a permit must be issued before an event can take place.

You can find a fillable permit request form on this Capitol Police Web site:

http://www.doa.state.wi.us/section.asp?linkid=149&locid=163

Click on “Facility Use Request” for the current form and follow the instructions for completing and submitting a permit application. The current form has the code R03/2011 in the upper right corner. Previous versions of the form are obsolete and will not be accepted.

Note that permit requests must normally be received at least 72 hours in advance of the event (two week advance notice is required if equipment is requested).

– Capitol Police

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UPDATED Sunday, March 6, 2011 --- 4:20 p.m.

From The Interior Branch of The Capitol Police:

The Wisconsin Capitol closed Sunday for the day at 4 p.m.. The total number of visitors to the Capitol today was 4,547. The outside crowd was estimated at 5,700 at its peak.

There were no arrests or problems reported today. Thank you.

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UPDATED Sunday, March 6, 2011 --- 12:40 p.m.

From the DOA: Signs Have Been Preserved

Visitors to the Capitol on Sunday will notice a significant change. The signs and banners posted over the past several weeks have all been removed from the walls, stairwells, banisters, and balconies. Prior to being removed, most were photographed by the Department of Administration, and the State Historical Society. The signs have been preserved. The signs will be evaluated for historical content by the Smithsonian and the Wisconsin State Historical Society over the course of the week.

Members of the public have expressed their desire to have some of the signs returned to the creators of the signs. In continuing our partnership with various groups, we are attempting to design how the sign return to those interested will actually occur. The developed process will begin following the completion of the historical assessment work.

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UPDATED Sunday, March 6, 2011 --- 7:45 a.m.

From the Madison Police Department:
CAPITOL SQUARE DEMONSTRATIONS
Saturday, March 5th

For the third consecutive weekend, Madison's Capitol Square was witness to a mass of passionate humanity as tens of thousands peacefully assembled to exercise democracy and First Amendment rights. Once again, there were no arrests and no citations. Large numbers of Wisconsinites continue to show their commitment to voicing disagreement over proposed legislation without violence, and officers, deputies, troopers, wardens and others sworn to protect and serve, once again, thank demonstrators for their collective demeanor.

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UPDATED Saturday, March 5, 2011 --- 3:50 p.m.

Michael Moore rallies Wis. pro-union protesters

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore is urging Wisconsin residents to fight Republican-backed efforts to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Moore spoke to thousands of people during a rally Saturday outside the Wisconsin Capitol, where demonstrators are nearing their third straight week of protests.

The crowd roared in approval as Moore implored protesters to keep up their struggle against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's legislation, comparing their fight to Egypt's revolt.

Moore says the wealthy have overreached, first taking the working class' money and then taking their souls by shutting them up at the bargaining table.

Walker has said the legislation is needed to help ease a state deficit projected to hit $3.6 billion by mid-2013. A Democratic senator says negotiations with the GOP broke down last this week.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 27, 2011 --- 8:45 a.m.

Rallies support fight against Wis. anti-union bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Protesters are turning out nationwide to support teachers, firefighters and other public workers holding steady at the Wisconsin Capitol in their fight against legislation aimed at weakening unions.

Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Los Angeles in a show of solidarity Saturday as the protest in Madison entered its 12th day and attracted more than 70,000 people, the largest crowd yet.

Hundreds banged on drums and screamed into bullhorns inside the Capitol as others braved frigid weather and snow. They're protesting efforts by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to strip nearly all public workers from most collective bargaining rights.

Several thousand protesters gathered in Columbus, Ohio, where lawmakers are considering similar legislation. Large crowds also gathered in other capital cities including Denver; Topeka, Kan.; and Olympia, Wash.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 26, 2011 --- 5:30 p.m.

Streets around Wis. Capitol fill with protesters

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison Police say the massive crowd at Wisconsin's Capitol is the largest yet in the ongoing protests against Gov. Scott Walker's bill to eliminate public worker bargaining rights.

A police spokesman didn't have a firm estimate for the size of Saturday's crowd but says it's definitely more than the roughly 70,000 people who converged on the Capitol last Saturday. That had been the biggest protest to date.

Protesters marched in heavy snow and 15-degree temperatures for hours. An afternoon program featured speeches by union members and leaders, as well as "The West Wing" actor and Wisconsin native Bradley Whitford as well as Jeff Skiles. He's the Wisconsin pilot who earned national fame for helping land a passenger plane safely on the Hudson River in January 2009.

Skiles told the crowd their cause is "just and right" and said that usually wins out in the end.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, February 25, 2011 --- 4:25 p.m.

We've received two press releases regarding rallies at the Capitol Saturday morning/afternoon.

Press Release:
SAG Members to Attend Rally at Wisconsin State Capitol

Screen Actors Guild member Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and SAG National Board member Gabrielle Carteris (The Event, My Alibi, Beverly Hills, 90210) will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to rally with other union members in support of Wisconsin workers on Saturday, February 26. Whitford and Carteris will be joined by AFTRA National Board member Robert Newman (Guiding Light) and Wisconsin SAG members and fellow union members from neighboring states as they rally in support of Wisconsin workers at the state capitol in Madison, beginning at 2 p.m.

Wisconsin has become ground zero for the labor movement and collective bargaining rights. The struggle of public sector union members in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states to protect their basic collective bargaining rights is not theirs alone. If collective bargaining rights can be stripped away in a strong union state like Wisconsin, it can happen anywhere. Various anti-labor bills have recently been introduced in dozens of states. And, it is believed that if this action succeeds in Wisconsin, more and more anti-union efforts may spread across the country and ultimately could affect all labor organizations, including Screen Actors Guild. All workers have a fundamental right to join unions and to engage in collective bargaining over workplace issues they face.

Screen Actors Guild supports Wisconsin union workers. Click here to read why Wisconsin matters to SAG members http://www.sag.org/sag-members-why-wisconsin-matters-you

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Press Release:
City Employees, Alders, Mayor to March in Solidarity

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will join unionized and non-represented city employees and alders to march in solidarity on Saturday, February 26 at 11:45a.m. at the Madison Municipal Building. City employees will speak before leading a march around the Capitol Square.

“In Madison, we solve our challenges by working together with our employees,” Mayor Cieslewicz said, “and we’ve done it successfully – we’ve improved our services, kept our Aaa bond rating, and made our unemployment one of the lowest in the state. On Saturday, we’ll join together again to show the Governor what a real working relationship between management and employees looks like.”

WHO: Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
Members of the Common Council
City Employees

WHEN: 11:45am
Saturday, February 26

WHERE: Madison Municipal Building
210 Martin Luther King Blvd

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UPDATED Thursday, February 24, 2011 --- 1:35 p.m.

Officials will cut off Wis. Capitol office access

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Protesters will have to end sleepovers in offices and hearing rooms of the Wisconsin Capitol by Saturday night.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization voted Wednesday to restrict access to hearing rooms and legislative offices after normal business hours starting Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says law enforcement officers have shared concerns about security with protesters sleeping over in Democratic legislators' offices.

Members of the University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants Association, who have taken up third floor office space, say the move is intended to end "democratic occupation" of the Capitol.

Protesters have also been sleeping in hallways and in the rotunda since last Tuesday. Those areas will remain open.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 23, 2011 --- 6:00 p.m.
By: Barclay Pollak

They come from every corner of the country and world. Some with their with unions and others all on their own.

" If one falls the rest will fall. "

Bill Hincks is from Chicago. He drove to Madison last Thursday with a friend.

Hincks only packed enough for a short visit. But, he decided to extend his stay because he thought what was going on at the capitol could turn into something special.

He says, " I've been sleeping here in my new home the capitol in Madison."

Hincks only had one change of clothes. Last weekend his family bought him some much needed supplies.

Hincks, a union member, believes what happens in Wisconsin will impact the rest of the country.

That's why Cassandra Hainey of Minnesota decided to come to Madison.

" We want to show the workers of Wisconsin that we support them. We want them to feel our support and we also want to fight this battle while it's at arms length and not wait for it to show up on our doorstep. "

Inside the the rotunda Wednesday it was a much thinner crowd. Because of that many Wisconsinites say they're happy to see the out of state support.

" It's important that people in other states understand what is being done here. Why we are protesting. Get informed, read your paper, go on the Internet, hear both sides, make your decision. "

Carolyn Fisher says she's encouraged by all the out of state residents.

She hopes more people from other states and countries will make their way to Madison then return home to help spread their message.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 23, 2011 --- 10:10 a.m.

LA County unionists joining Wisconsin protest

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Members of Los Angeles County labor unions are on their way to Wisconsin to support government workers there who are battling to keep collective bargaining rights.

City News Service says about 160 members of the county Federation of Labor left Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. They'll join tens of thousands of protesters outside the Wisconsin state Capitol.

The demonstrators oppose a plan by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to strip government employee unions of their right to bargain collectively on anything except for salaries.

Some Democratic senators have blocked a vote in their chamber by fleeing the state while Democrats are filibustering in the Assembly.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 23, 2011 --- 7:25 a.m.

Hoffa, Packer great Brown to join Wis. rally

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Teamsters President James Hoffa will join former Green Bay Packer Gilbert Brown for the ninth straight day of rallies at the Wisconsin Capitol designed to stop a bill taking away public employees' collective bargaining rights.

They are the latest big names to join in the protests that have attracted tens of thousands of people to the Capitol in opposition to the bill. Jesse Jackson, several other past and current Packers, and musician Tom Morello have all spoken out against the bill.

Brown, a member of the 1996 Packers team that won the Super Bowl, was expected to join Hoffa for a noontime rally in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday.

Hundreds of people camped out overnight in the Capitol as the Assembly debate continued after more than 19 hours.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, February 21, 2011 --- 1:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Thousands of people are rallying in favor of workers' rights outside the Capitol despite freezing cold temperatures and wind.

Tom Morello, a member of Rage Against the Machine, fired up the crowd of teachers, state employees, graduate students and others protesting Gov. Scott Walker's plan to effectively eliminate collective bargaining. From a stage on the Capitol steps, he sang a song with the refrain, "for the union men and women, standing up and standing strong!"

Each time Morello repeated that, the crowd roared in applause. He joked his fingers were numb because of the cold temperatures and wind.

Morello said protesters are making history because "the future of workers' rights will be decided in Madison, Wis." He said his mom was a union public school teacher in Illinois.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 4:40 p.m.
By NBC15's Tim Elliott:

Winter weather made for poor traveling conditions Sunday. But despite the freezing rain, thousands of protesters descended on the capitol for another day of demonstrations.

Saturday, tens of thousands of people came to the capitol square. But today, there were far fewer people. The weather may be to blame for that, but nonetheless, a lot of people still came out to get their message across.

Mother nature made a mess of things in the Madison area on Sunday.

“The weather is terrible!” said protester Jennifer Larson.

But that didn't stop the protesters from coming to the capitol for the sixth day in a row.

"I've been here everyday since Tuesday and because of the weather a lot of people will stay away but there are a lot of people here.” said Carol Gottinger.

“We have a crisis in our state, we need to come together to solve this problem.” added Larson.

Some protesters toted signs and umbrellas in the freezing rain ---

“My kids actually helped make the signs. They figured out a way to keep me dry!” said Holly Ceelen

“We still have protesters out here, I'm shivering and when I talk I'm shivering because I'm cold but this is important,” commented Larson.

While others waited to get inside the cozier confines of the capitol.

“We drove up from Milwaukee we took it very slow so we were safe,” said Larson.

“And today you've got a lot of people coming in spite of the weather and they're staying overnight,” said Gottinger.

Thousands of people packed the capitol rotunda once again.

“I'm here today, I've actually been protesting all week long and the rain will not keep me away because I strongly believe Scott walker is attacking everything that I hold dear,” commented Ceelan.

“But I'm not surprised with the people that are here. I wish the weather was better and I've heard that yesterday there were 70 to 100,000 people here and that right there just says a lot,” said Gottinger.

And these demonstrators say they'll keep coming , rain or shine.

“Weather is weather. I'll take it, I'll take the rain I'll take the sun it does not mean anything to me compared to these issues. Governor Walker better look at this we're not going away we will be here everyday,” said Ceelan.

While there were a few Scott Walker supporters at the capitol Sunday, there was not an organized rally similar to yesterday.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 12:10 p.m.

Protests start for 6th day at Wisconsin Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Protests have begun at the Wisconsin Capitol for the sixth straight day.

Hundreds of people have gathered inside the Capitol as snow turns to freezing rain that is making walking outside the building a challenge.

Hundreds of protesters are chanting, "This is what Democracy looks like" and "union busting!" They are banging on drums and dancing in the Capitol Rotunda. The official rally kicks off at noon.

Yesterday's rallies with people demonstrating for and against a bill that would strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights drew 68,000 people, but the weather was warmer and dry.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 10:10 a.m.

Protesters ready for another rally at Wis. Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Dozens of protesters are gathering in the Wisconsin Capitol before a noon rally expected to attract thousands of opponents of Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Protesters have been at the Capitol for six days, and nearly 70,000 turned out for Saturday's rallies for and against the bill.

Some protesters are sitting in the Capitol rotunda plotting their Sunday strategy. Others are still curled up in sleeping bags throughout the building.

Jacob Cedillotootalian is a 27-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching assistant. He slept under a coat rack on the Capitol's second floor hallway and says it's the third night he's spent there.

The English instructor says normalcy would be nice, but he doesn't see an end to the stalemate over union rights.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 10:05 a.m.

Snow, freezing rain could complicate Wis. protests

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Both sides in the protests over union rights in Madison are expected to face a new foe on Sunday: the weather.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow mixed with freezing rain throughout the day. As much as 3 inches of snow is projected by noon.

The weather service has issued a winter storm warning for a large swath of the upper Midwest, including most of Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Yesterday, police estimate nearly 70,000 people converged on the state Capitol in Madison to join in protests over what Republicans are calling a "budget repair" bill that would strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights.

According to the Madison Police Department, 60,000 people gathered outside the building with another 8,000 inside on Saturday. That was easily the largest crowd yet over five days of protests.

Hundreds of tea party supporters staged a counter rally outside the Capitol.

Police say there have been no arrests.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 6:50 a.m.

Snow, freezing rain could complicate Wis. protests

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Both sides in the protests over union rights in Madison are expected to face a new foe on Sunday: the weather.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow mixed with freezing rain throughout the day. Although less than an inch of snow is expected to accumulate overnight, heavier amounts of as much as 3 inches are projected by noon Sunday.

The weather service has issued a winter storm warning for a large swath of the upper Midwest, including most of Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

After nearly a full week of political chaos, Saturday's rally saw the biggest crowd yet — an estimated 70,000 people. It included both opponents and supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's plan to largely eliminate collective bargaining rights for government workers.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 8:40 p.m.

Largest protest yet fails to sway Wis. lawmakers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — It's been another day of demonstrations at the Wisconsin Capitol.

An estimated 70,000 people turned out to make their voices heard on a Republican-backed "budget repair" bill that would scrap union rights for almost all public workers.

After nearly a week of political chaos in Madison, during which tens of thousands of pro-labor protesters turned the Capitol into a campsite, supporters of Gov. Scott Walker came out in force today.

Throngs of Walker supporters gathered for an afternoon rally organized by Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity.

The Wisconsin governor set off the protests earlier this week by pushing ahead with a measure that would require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and largely eliminate their collective bargaining rights.

Democrats, a minority in the Senate, fled the state on Thursday, halting passage of the bill. They haven't been seen since.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 3:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police say nearly 70,000 people have converged on the Wisconsin Capitol to join in protests over a Republican bill that would strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights.

According to the Madison Police Department, 60,000 people gathered outside the building with another 8,000 inside on Saturday -- easily the largest crowd yet as the protest stretched through its fifth day. The demonstration was far more intense on Saturday, though, as hundreds of tea party supporters staged a counter rally outside the Capitol.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain says there have been no arrests. He refused to say how large the tea party contingent was, but union supporters clearly outnumbered them.

The crowd will likely be smaller on Sunday. A snowstorm is expected to hit the state overnight.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 3:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The slices are on the house at Ian's Pizza in Madison.

Owner Ian Gurfield says he's received about 40 calls from people who want to buy pizza for the protesters demonstrating a block away at the Wisconsin Capitol.

So, he says the next 600 slices are free.

Gurfield says he's been getting calls for days from people who paid to have pizza delivered to the pro-labor forces demonstrating against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights. He says he had been delivering the pizza but Saturday it seemed easier to just hand out slices to the protesters packing his store.

Gurfield says he's received calls from as far away as California and Connecticut and by mid-afternoon Saturday they'd paid for $2,500 in pizza.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 12:55 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Thousands of protesters have gathered outside the Wisconsin Capitol for a fifth day of demonstrations on a budget bill that would strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

The bill has been pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Hundreds of his supporters have gathered on the east side of the Capitol but they are surrounded by thousands of pro-labor protesters.

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 showed up Saturday with signs reading, "I was at work yesterday. Where were you?" and "Sorry, we're late Scott. We work for a living."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 12:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Some demonstrators against Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill curtailing state workers' union bargaining rights have been trained to peacefully respond to counter-protests at the state Capitol.

Chris Terrell of Madison says protesters spending the night inside the Capitol rotunda were instructed by union members in advance of the arrival of Tea Party activists. Terrell says demonstrators were taught how to remain calm during confrontations and respond to Tea Party activists with specific talking points. He says union supporters were also told to pay attention to their posture and expressions so their demonstrations can't be construed as violent.

Several protesters, wearing orange vests, were serving as so-called marshals to keep the peace during confrontations.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 10:05 a.m.

Pro-labor protesters in Wis. aim to keep the peace

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol are walking around 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.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 8:20 a.m.

From the Department of Administration:
Public Access to Wisconsin State Capitol

MADISON – In anticipation of large crowds gathering at the Wisconsin State Capitol today, to ensure public safety, the Capitol Police will be monitoring the number of people in the building, including the number entering and exiting the building.

The top priority of the Capitol Police is keeping visitors safe while ensuring that they can conduct their business in the Capitol. The Capitol will be open to the public as usual, however, visitors should use entrances at North and South Hamilton to enter the building. The public should be aware that due to the large crowds anticipated, entering the Capitol may take longer than normal.

Capitol Police thanks visitors in advance for their cooperation.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 8:00 a.m.

About 200 protesters spend night in Wis. Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — About 200 protesters spent the night in the Wisconsin state Capitol leading up to what police were anticipating would be the largest crowds seen yet in the weeklong demonstrations.

Pro-labor protesters, including thousands of teachers, grade school children, firefighters and college students, have been protesting Gov. Scott Walker's plan to take away union rights. Crowds swelled to an estimated 40,000 on Friday.

The crowds have been loud but peaceful. Police said no one was arrested Friday and since Tuesday only nine citations have been issued all week for minor offenses.

But on Saturday a large rally organized by tea party groups in support of Walker's proposal was planned, raising fears of confrontation.

The Capitol was to remain open, but access was being limited to a couple entrances.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Saturday, February 19, 2011 --- 5:40 p.m.

Wis. rallies renew history of political activism

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A birthplace of the progressive movement is crackling with a fervor not seen in decades.

Students from the famously liberal University of Wisconsin have teamed up with unionized state workers for demonstrations against changes to collective bargaining rights pushed by the state's new Republican governor.

The biggest rally yet is expected Saturday — along with an influx of conservative counter-protesters.

The vast majority of the protesters who have so far filled the Capitol with chanting, drum-beats and anti-GOP slogans have been union workers, students and their supporters.

But tensions could rise when counter-protesters are set to arrive by the busload to demand Gov. Scott Walker's bill be passed. Those protests are planned by groups including the Tea Party Patriots, the movement's largest umbrella group, and the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011--- 4:30 p.m.
By: Barclay Pollak

Inside the Capitol protesters packed the rotunda for a fourth day as the Badgers fight song played in the background.

Outside the Assembly, music didn't fill the air instead it was the chanting and cheering of protesters.

Assembly Democrat Tamara Grigsby of Milwaukee stopped and talked to us briefly after both parties left the assembly this morning.

She echoed the protesters sentiment.

"We are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure we kill the bill."

Protesters standing outside the assembly say no matter the outcome their fight is just starting.

Scott Swanson says, "The fight is never going to be over at this point."

Tom Tedford says, "This is labors last defense."

"It's not about money. This is about crushing the union, silencing the voice of workers. Workers who make America great. "

Late this morning civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson loaned his voice to the protesters. As he made his way around the square, NBC15's Barclay Pollak was able to catch-up with him. Jackson says he's impressed by the spirit of the protesters and believes Madison looks and feels a lot like Egypt.

Rev. Jesse Jackson says, "Non-violent, disciplined resistance, fighting for economic security."

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 3:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Madison police says the number of protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol is the largest it's been in four days.

But spokesman Joel Despain said he could not give an estimate, which have grown each day and were about 25,000 on Thursday.

Labor supporters are protesting a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker that would strip most public employees of most collective bargaining rights.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold were among those at Friday's protests.

Despain said Madison police have made no arrests outside the Capitol. State Department of Administration officials were not available for immediate comment on any arrests inside the Capitol.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 2:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- AFL-CIO leaders say union members in Wisconsin will keep fighting against proposed anti-union legislation, even if it passes.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Friday that workers won't stop organizing in the streets, and will certainly make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Tens of thousands of protesters have descended on the Capitol in Madison to oppose the bill. They're chanting, beating drums and waving signs criticizing Gov. Scott Walker.

The Republican governor wants to remove collective bargaining rights from most public employees. Republican lawmakers say they have enough votes to pass the bill, but Senate Democrats left the Capitol to prevent a vote from being taken.

Trumka says it's important that unions never give up. He says they're the last line of defense against corporations that are already too powerful.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 12:55 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson has urged thousands of protesters in the Wisconsin Capitol to continue their stand against a sweeping anti-union bill that state Republicans are pushing.

Jackson made an unannounced appearance at the protests Friday afternoon. Protesters rushed to shake his hand or high-five him, and many shouted, "Thank you, Jesse."

Jackson told the protesters they were fighting for a just cause. He told them to hold strong to their principles and continue fighting to kill the bill. Then he led the masses in a rendition of "We Shall Overcome."

Gov. Scott Walker's bill would cut costs in part by eliminating collective-bargaining rights.

Jackson likened the protest to anti-government fights in Egypt and Tunisia. He says Wisconsin workers should be allowed at the table to help find a solution.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 11:50 a.m.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has arrived at the Capitol Square. NBC15's Barclay Pollak interviewed Jackson. Jackson said the protesters need to keep up the pressure against the administration.

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is expected to be in Madison this mid-day. According to a press release, he will rally protesters at noon today.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 11:25 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Many Wisconsin labor supporters are looking for alternative ways to protest Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill as Capitol demonstrations continued for a fourth day.

Madison Teachers, Inc. President Mike Lipp told members that continuing the protests will be a "day-by-day" call.

As an alternative, Madison physical therapist Nan Schaefer has encouraged teachers to boycott businesses that contributed campaign funds to Walker in the last election. Protesters set up a Facebook page listing those contributors.

Schaefer and others have also asked protesters to support Supreme Court candidate Joanne Kloppenberg over incumbent Justice David Prosser. She said the protesters need a sympathetic Supreme Court if Walker's bill passes.

Walker's bill would strip nearly all public employees of the right to collectively bargain, except with respect to salary.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 9:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dozens of protesters who camped out in the Wisconsin Capitol overnight say they're prepared to protest as long as necessary while an anti-union bill remains under consideration.

As many as 25,000 protesters descended on the Capitol on Thursday for a full day of raucous chanting and peaceful demonstration. Several hundred spent the night. Some bundled up in pajamas under blankets and in sleeping bags. Others simply used their jackets as pillows and slept in street clothes.

Twenty-three-year-old Nick Niles of Kenosha studies political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says he spent the night to show solidarity to the cause.

Alex Benedict is a 21-year-old UW-Madison student from Janesville. He says sleeping in the Capitol rather than just coming in early in the morning shows how serious protesters are.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, February 18, 2011 --- 7:35 a.m.

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Thousands of protesters who have descended on Wisconsin's Capitol in hopes of halting a Republican effort to end collective bargaining rights for public workers are steeling themselves for a long fight.

The protesters who have shown up this week have been buoyed by Democrats' decision Thursday to flee to avoid the measure's near-certain passage.

Democrats are saying they won't return before Saturday. So it's unclear when the Senate will be able to begin debating the measure meant to ease the state's budget woes.

Republicans in control of the Senate plan to try again Friday. They need at least one Democrat to show up to be able to conduct business.

The Assembly could take up the bill first if the Senate remains in limbo.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 17, 2011 --- 3:10 p.m.

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Authorities say an estimated 25,000 people are protesting anti-union legislation at the Wisconsin state Capitol, and nine demonstrators have been arrested.

On the third day of protests, the Statehouse was completely jammed with protesters opposed to a bill that would strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. The crowd filled the building's hallways, sat cross-legged across the floor and chanted slogans.

For the moment, a group of Democratic senators have blocked the bill by refusing to attend a midday vote and leaving the Capitol. The sergeant at arms was looking for them.

One member of the group told The Associated Press that they had all left Wisconsin in an effort to force Republicans to negotiate.

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority, but they need at least one Democrat to be present before voting.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 17, 2011 --- 11:05 a.m.

From the Madison Police Department:

By all indications, Thursday could mark the largest mass demonstrations - thus far - this week. Starting at 10:30 a.m., it appears UW students, and others, will march from campus to the Capitol, up State Street. This will likely cause streets crossing State Street to be closed for periods of time. In addition, there are contingency plans to shut down all or part of the Capitol Square to traffic, depending of crowd size.

The Madison Police Department (MPD) is proud of the way protesters have conducted themselves, and Chief Noble Wray hopes all will continue to exercise civility and decorum.

Once again, Capitol Police are asking people to keep signs attached to sticks outside of State Capitol, as they will not be allowed inside. Motorists should be advised that there will likely be delays around the downtown area.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 17, 2011 --- 9:25 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Labor supporters have returned to the Wisconsin Capitol for a third day of widespread protests against a proposal to end most collective bargaining for the majority of state employees.

Most of the demonstrators Thursday gathered in front of the Senate chambers where lawmakers will take up Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill to end collective bargaining, except on issues of salary, for most public employees. Walker has said the bill will help close Wisconsin's $137 million shortfall in the state's current budget and a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the next two-year budget.

Many protesters spent the night in sleeping bags at the Capitol after the Legislature's budget committee worked late, passed the bill and forwarded it to the Senate.

Wednesday's protest drew an estimated 10,000 people to the Capitol.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 16, 2011 --- 11:55 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside Gov. Scott Walker's office at the state Capitol and are shouting "recall Walker now" and "Walker has got to go."

Thousands more are congregating outside the state Capitol building and are viewable from the governor's office window. The protests are in response to Walker's proposal to take away collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Wardens from the Department of Natural Resources are providing security at the Capitol.

Meanwhile, the state's second largest school district closed Wednesday after more than 40 percent of its union-covered workers call in sick to protest Walker's proposal.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 -- 4:15 p.m.
By NBC15's Dana Brueck

Thousands of people came to the Capital City with the hope Governor Walker would hear their message -- of opposition.

"I think we've lost the sense of democracy," Terry Ferriss says, "I feel like what people in Egypt are fighting for right now. That's exactly what I feel like I'm fighting for right now is basic democracy and our basic rights."

With a sign saying... "care about your educators like they care about your child," UW River Falls faculty member Terry Ferriss boarded a bus with colleagues around 5:15 Tuesday morning to protest.

"What's in the bill there's just too much wrong with it, and I hope people in the legislative branches really take a second look at it and have second thoughts. They really need to look hard at this."

Ferriss was one of an estimated 10-thousand people who flooded a corner of the Capitol Square...some with signs comparing Governor Scott Walker to a dictator.

Inside, another estimated three-thousand people, urging lawmakers to "kill the bill."

Sgt. Dan Goettl is a correctional officer at the adult institution in Stanley, Wisconsin.

"We understand concessions and things like that. We have done that in the past. This bill is way to the extreme. There's no discussion. He's not come to the table to bargain with state employees."

Exempt from the proposed changes to collective bargaining rights... local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors, but firefighters arrived to cheers from the crowd.

The president of the Madison-area firefighters union says they turned out to stand as part of labor, in opposition to the bill.

"We've always been a part of labor. An injury to one is an injury to all of us," Joe Conway, Jr., president of Fire Fighters Local 311, says "Firefighters, they say, were carved out, but the way labor works, and the way we negotiate contracts, we're never carved out. We get the same as everybody else. We don't want there to be a race to the bottom."

The Department of Administration reports no incidents at the peak of Tuesday's rally.

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 15, 2011 -- 2:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Officials report no incidents of violence or disorder in and around the Wisconsin Capitol, where thousands of protesters gathered.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration estimates that 10,000 protesters demonstrated outside the Capitol on Tuesday, with 3,000 more filling the Capitol Rotunda. The labor supporters are protesting Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which would strip most state and local workers of collective bargaining rights, except when negotiating salary.

The Capitol and surrounding square are being patrolled by Madison police and Dane County Sheriff's deputies. DOA officials say there were no incidents between protesters and police.

Protesters outside the Capitol started to leave around 1 p.m., but many remained within the Capitol beating drums and occasionally chanting.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 --- 11:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin public employees have inundated the Capitol to protest a plan to cut collective bargaining for most public employees.

Members of ASCFME, educators and a handful of University of Wisconsin students chanted "Union Busting has got to go," as the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee held hearings on Gov. Scott Walker's plan.

Walker's proposal would strip all state and local employees, except for law enforcement and firefighters, of collective bargaining rights on anything other than salary. Workers would have to contribute to benefits packages.

While the many protesters have taken residence on the steps or sidewalk of the Capitol, others have filed into the Capitol Rotunda, where the hearing is being broadcast on several televisions. The crowd has occasionally burst in a chorus of boos in response to legislator's comments.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


The Rev. Jesse Jackson in Madison.