MADISON, WI –Â The Wisconsin state Capitol is still bustling with loud protesters, more than an hour after the state’s official 4 p.m. CT closure time came and went. So far there have been only a limited signs of people leaving — and zero signs of arrests or compulsion to leave.
If anybody does leave, of course, they will not be able to get back in. Thus, I am holed up in the Capitol’s press room, on the second upper floor, as I write this dispatch surrounded by other reporters.
A few hundred people are crowded on the first upper floor, continuing to go through the chants that have been heard throughout the demonstrations: “This is what democracy looks like!”; “Recall Walker!”; singing of “Solidarity Forever,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and many more.
Even the multiple police officers that I’ve spoken to say that they do not know whether there are plans to make any arrests.At 3 p.m. CT, a small group of protesters held a press conference in the office of Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey, to announce that they would non-violently refuse to leave — opening themselves up to the possibility of being escorted out or even arrested. The protesters included students, unionists and members of the clergy.
They made clear that they would not be belligerent with police officers — who, they noted, had cooperated with protest leaders on issues of crowd locations and sanitation for the past week and a half. Instead, they blamed the decision to close the Capitol on the Republican-controlled state government.
When 4 p.m. came, hardly anybody left, and the chanting continued. At about 4:15 p.m., a protest organizer announced on the ground floor that everyone present had to make a choice: To leave, or to stay and move to the first upper floor. Some people did indeed leave, but many others filed up the stairs, expanding the already large presence on the first upper floor.
In a further sign that hardly anything has changed, the chants are still being led from the same place they have been the whole time: The center of the ground floor, which is visible from the balconies of the upper floors. A few protesters have remained on the ground floor, continuing to lead the chants in plain sight of the police.
So the protests keep going, and it’s hard to know when — or even if — they will end.