Just got an alert from the Capitol City Leadership Committee (which is what the protesters who held the building last night have taken to calling themselves). The Capitol Police were supposed to open the building to the public at 8am. Two hours later they are still not letting anyone into the building. It’s particularly cold out in Madison today, with big crowds outside trying to enter. The media relations person for the CCLC, Thomas Bird, told me that one lady, who has been coming to the Capitol from the beginning, has colon cancer, and it took a long time for them to finally persuade the police to get her in.
Crowds outside the Capitol are chanting “Let them in!” as the police block the entrances.
The Department of Administration released new rules this morning about building access:
• Visitors to the Capitol will enter at the King Street entrance.
• A handicapped entrance will be available at the Martin Luther King, Jr. entrance.
• Visitors will be admitted to meet with legislators and other officials who work in the building, to attend committee hearings and to observe the state Assembly and state Senate if they are in session.
• Capitol Police will be stationed at the King Street entrance and can assist members of the public who do not have an appointment, but who wish to see their legislators or meet with others in the building.
• Protestors will be allowed into the building, but crowd size will be adjusted to accommodate the cleaning crews, the preparation for the Tuesday’s joint legislative session and the number of protestors who remained in the building overnight.
• Items that created safety or fire hazards and were removed from the building beginning on Friday will not be allowed back in.
• Police will continue the practice that began on Saturday of disallowing items including sleeping bags, blankets and animals (other than service animals) into the building.
• Members of the media will enter the Capitol at the West Washington entrance.
As you can see, they are really cracking down on access, and particularly what can be brought into the building. They have tried to make it very uncomfortable for people to stay, forcing them to sleep on jackets or the bare floor. They have restricted medical supplies and slowed the supply of food. But according to the CCLC, they are going well beyond these rules and basically blocking access to the building. And this comes after the police told protesters that they would be allowed back in at 8am.
Blocking access to the Capitol building is illegal under the Wisconsin state Constitution:
Article I, §4 – ANNOT.
The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the capitol or its grounds. 59 Atty. Gen. 8.
Article I, §4
Right to assemble and petition. Section 4. The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.
This is all tied to the joint legislative session on the budget on Tuesday. Governor Walker really doesn’t want to have to deliver the budget in a building under occupation. I think initially he planned to move locations, but that would not have been legal under Wisconsin state law. So instead of mass arrests and the negative publicity that would have went with it, Walker is going for the slow squeeze.
Local union leaders and the ACLU are working on the issue as we speak. More when I get it…