Sunday, February 27, 2011

Protesters Ready for Civil Disobedience in Wisconsin

Updated 7 p.m. est

Police sympathetic to Wisconsin's state and local workers so far are declining to arrest demonstrators who are staging a sit-in at the state Capitol over collective bargaining rights.

Under orders from beleaguered Gov. Scott Walker, police are being asked to clear the Capitol of Wisconsin of workers and their supporters so the building can be cleaned. The two-week occupation of the Capitol in Madison is a result of Walker's unpopular decision to take away the right of workers to negotiate collective bargaining agreements.

Union leaders began spreading the word earlier today that some of the police are not happy with Walker's order, but have no choice to carry out the unpopular directive. The building was closed at 4 p.m. local time and Walker ordered the State police in to clearer out the protesters.

"At 4:00pm they were told to leave. Some did, but many others including clergy, police and firefighters said they would not leave and would engage in peaceful civil disobedience if they tried to remove them," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "They were not removed. They will not be removed tonight. The people of Wisconsin held their Capitol building against the governor."

End update

“Law enforcement working at the Capitol has been impressed with how peaceful and courteous everyone has been,” Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer said in a statement.

“The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin’s law enforcement community opposes Gov. Walker’s effort to eliminate collective bargaining in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers or the public. Security cannot come at the cost of conflict,” Palmer added.

In response, many of the workers plan to engage in civil disobedience, refusing to leave the building while agreeing to go peacefully should police decide to physically remove the demonstrators.

“First Gov. Walker tried to take away workers’ rights, now he is trying to take away our Constitutional right as Americans to peacefully assemble,” steelworker Roy Vandenberg said in a statement. “I have a message for Gov. Walker, your plan to silence us won't work. We are not going away, and we will not be silenced.”

Even Walker, when pressed this morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" news program, admitted the workers have been peaceful and orderly.

"We've had, you know, a week ago, 70,000 people, we had more than that yesterday, and yet we haven't had problems here. We haven't had disturbances," Walker said. "We've just had very passionate protesters for and against this bill, and that's OK. That's a very Midwestern thing."

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