MADISON, WI (FDL) – While having dinner last night inside a building with a bank of windows facing the state house, we saw a coterie of hundreds of cops marching into the building. Once inside, they told the crowd assembled that they were ordered to kick the protesters out of the Capitol, but instead they’d be sleeping overnight with them.
I think that’s half-accurate. It’s true that the Wisconsin Professional Police Association rejected the idea of closing the Capitol, and planned to sleep overnight with protesters yesterday. But the building isn’t officially scheduled to be closed until tomorrow at 4pm. The Capitol Police did shut the doors at 9pm last night, opening it this morning. They were supposed to have everything shut down on the upper floors, although some compromises were reached between police and protesters running some of the makeshift infrastructure that allowed their service to continue.
This is the prelude to a mass protest today on the Capitol square. But it’s not clear what will happen when the Capitol Police try to clear the building tomorrow. Will some refuse to leave? Will the city and county cops join them? Will we have a spectacle of police ejecting police from a public building?
So far these protests have been completely peaceful. The signs have been hyperbolic, mostly amusingly so (I’ve never seen so many “Koch” puns in my life). But nobody has been arrested to this point. Law enforcement has been polite and pleasant and have commended the protesters for their conduct at every turn. I’ve heard strategizing over future legislative battles (there are three open seats in the Assembly because Gov. Walker plucked three Republicans out for his cabinet, and a State Supreme Court race in April; those elections in May will be an early test for the electoral force of this movement) and labor walkouts, not over violent resistance. Scott Walker got booed out of a restaurant downtown last night; that kind of shaming is about as vicious as it has gotten. This new TV ad is pretty brutal, but it’s a pretty standard pressure tactic.
Does that change tomorrow? Will scenes of nonviolent civil disobedience take this protest to another level? Will the mass crowds today cause some second thoughts among Senate Republicans?
It remains to be seen.