Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisconsin Police Sleep Among Protesters

Wisconsin Capitol police had announced that they would clear out the Capitol building for cleaning at 4pm this afternoon. This would be the first time the Capitol would be clear since the protests began. However, some protesters had said they would not voluntarily leave the building when asked, leading to possible arrests. So I arrived at the Capitol at about 4pm to show my support and witness anything that might occur.

There was a large crowd gathered at the State Street entrance of the building, chanting things such as "Let us in!" Many volunteers were seen in yellow or orange vests marked "Marshal" who were talking to the police and telling the crowd where they should stand. At one point, several police officers were at the door, and had asked the marshals to make a path through the crowd. However, only a few people exited the building, all without police escort.

After a while the police disappeared inside the building, and word quickly spread that people were leaving the building from another entrance. So we all moved to the other entrance. Again, volunteer marshals were telling people where to stand, making a clear path for those who would be escorted out of the building. We saw a few more people leave, but the crowd dwindled and so did the marshals.

No arrests had been made when I left the Capitol at about 6pm. According to the few people leaving the Capitol building, no one was asked to leave and hundreds of people remained inside. When I got home, I saw the Wisconsin State Journal reported that about 600 people will be allowed to stay the night. The journal reports Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs announced to the protesters inside, "If you're here you can stay." There's no word on exactly why the Capitol wasn't cleared as had been planned.

Apparently, some police officers will be among those staying in the Capitol tonight, which also includes some clergy. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association has been asking its members to sleep at the Capitol with the protesters as a sign of support. Today, hundreds of police marched into the Capitol to show their support and said, "We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today, but we know what's right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!"

Here's a video of the police in the Capitol rotunda today, shot by Ryan Harvey.

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