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13,000 strong bombard the Capitol

February 16, 2011

MADISON—An estimated 10,000 protesters converged outside the State Capitol yesterday while 3,000 more were inside, said Jodi Jenson, Department of Administration.

A tour guide who has worked at the Capitol for 10 years said she has never seen anything like what she witnessed yesterday.

By 10 a.m. a steady stream of people who were wielding signs that overtly expressed their opinions about Gov. Scott Walker and his proposed budget repair bill flocked to the Capitol. People from all walks of life left work, school and their homes to protest against what they see as Walker’s efforts to dissolve unions, slash wages and impair children’s education.

About 400 students from Madison’s East High School walked out yesterday around 11 a.m. after their parents called them out of school, said T.J. Cobb, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

The plan to walk out was organized through a Facebook group, much like how the Egyptians organized protests in Cairo.

The students walked two miles to the Capitol where they shouted, “What’s Disgusting? Union Busting.”

Children who appeared to be no older than 14 also trampled throughout the Capitol shouting in unison, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, this Walker guy has got to go.”

The majority of the crowd seemed to be protesting against Walker, with signs that said, “Welcome to Cairo” and “Walker, the Mubarak of the Midwest.”

Walker’s budget repair bill seeks to fix a $137 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. Among its provisions, it would require state employees to pay more for health insurance and require higher contributions to the state pension system. The bill also would prevent University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff from unionizing.

A few in the crowd carried signs supporting Walker. One of those people was Trevor Schumann, a senior at East High School. Although Schumann said he was receiving physical threats by union supporters, he continued to hold his sign high.

“To me [the bill] is about equality between public and private sector workers in sort of shouldering the financial burden of the deficit (Gov. Jim) Doyle left us,” Schumann said.

Protesters were still outside the Capitol in significant numbers last night at 6 p.m. Rallies and protests will continue today. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is expected to vote on the budget repair bill today, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. If it passes through the committee, the bill will move to the Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly in the coming days.