Since the start of big demonstrations in mid February, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of activists have been engaged in “sleep ins” every night at the state Capitol to underscore their opposition to the proposed reforms. The government finally decided to kick them out and clean up the mess they left on Sunday night, re-opening by Monday morning. But the state police union sent out an alert urging its members not to comply with the orders, and to join the squatters instead.
“Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Governor Walker’s attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin’s devoted public employees is wrong,” said Wisconsin Professional Police Association boss Jim Palmer in a statement. “That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them tonight.”
The police-union leader also called on Gov. Walker to leave the Capitol building open for demonstrators, saying his members had been “impressed” with how “peaceful” the anti-reform protestors had been.
“The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin’s law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker’s effort to eliminate most union activity in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers and the public,” Palmer continued. “The costs of providing security can never outweigh those associated with a conflict.”
Sources inside the Capitol have reported mountains of trash, shouting, banging on drums, intimidation, and even protestors banging on legislators’ doors and windows. Vandalism has also been a problem, with some use of profanity as well. The words “F*** Walker” can even be seen in a Capitol-building bathroom scrawled in black marker in a picture obtained by The New American.
“Taxpayers have called inquiring about vandalism,” noted state Senate staffer Jolene Churchill in an e-mail to citizens. “The cleaning crew informed me that they had to remove condoms recently from the restrooms.”
Signs and placards, often including violent rhetoric, have been taped all over the walls inside the recently renovated Capitol. And the building has also reportedly developed quite a “stench,” with a witness saying: “Your State Capitol smells like the second week of Deer Camp.”
According to news reports, police have also announced that they would not arrest or even forcibly remove protestors from the building. "People here have acted lawfully and responsibly," Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs told the Associated Press. "There's no reason to consider arrests."
A communist propaganda outlet called the Red Ant Liberation Army quoted one of its “allies” inside the Capitol as events with the police unfolded. “Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside,” said blogger Ryan Harvey.
On his Facebook page earlier in the day, Harvey reported: “Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘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!’ Unreal.”
Watch a video posted by the communist source of what appears to be a police officer shouting through a bullhorn in the Capitol:
Brian Austin, a Madison police officer and executive board member of the union, spoke with the Chicago Tribune about his decision to join the protestors in the Capitol building Sunday night. He said it was “surreal” that he could have possibly been arrested after 15 years as a cop. "But it's because I'm a police officer that I'm here, and it's because I'm a parent," he told the paper.
Out-of-state police-union bosses have also expressed solidarity with government-employee protestors. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, for example, "stands in support of our neighboring states and states nationwide that are being affected by legislation restricting or attempting to eliminate collective bargaining," President Ted Street said in a statement. “We can all unite to ensure this situation does not continue to spread."
A spokesman for the Governor’s office would not comment on the police decision to leave the Capitol open. But Gov. Walker has said, even recently, that he has not been intimidated by the protests. "Year after year, governors and legislators before us have kicked the can down the road," he told NBC's Meet the Press. "We can't do that. We're broke. It's about time someone stood up and told the truth in our state and said here's our problem, here's the solution and let's do this."
The Wisconsin Assembly has already passed the reform bill. But in the state Senate, at least one Democrat is required to make the mandatory 20-Senator quorum to vote on fiscal issues. All 14 Democrat Senators are reportedly hiding out in Illinois to prevent the vote.
The protests are now entering their third week, and the battle has started to spread nationwide. Both sides acknowledge that the outcome will have broad implications for state and local governments across the country. And for now, both sides seem determined not to give up.
Photo: Police officers walk around the rotunda holding protest signs at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011: AP Images