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Protesters barred from Wisconsin Capitol

Wisconsin officials move to end a two-week sleep-in by opponents of the Republican governor's anti-union legislation.

March 01, 2011|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • Rich Yaeger protests outside the Wisconsin Capitol, which was closed to demonstrators Monday.
Rich Yaeger protests outside the Wisconsin Capitol, which was closed to… (Scott Olson, Getty Images )

Reporting from Madison, Wis. — Authorities have barred protesters from entering the Capitol, a move aimed at ending a two-week sleep-in by opponents of a bill that would strip most state employees of collective bargaining powers.

When the Capitol was scheduled to open for business at 8 a.m. Monday, scores of protesters — along with other members of the public, including one Democratic Assembly member — found themselves shut out.

Police had tried to clear the building Sunday night, but several hundred demonstrators refused to leave. Some were still inside the building Monday, but those who had left — perhaps for food, showers or work — were not allowed back. Capitol officials said the move was necessary to clean the building.

A limited number of people with appointments were allowed in, as well as 40 at a time for a hearing convened by Assembly Democrats.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sent a letter to the Department of Administration calling the barring of protesters during business hours unconstitutional. One union protester, retired electrical lineman Jerry Collins, said: "It's our building, it's Wisconsin's building. It's not Gov. [Scott] Walker or the Legislature's building."

Also Monday, the Wisconsin State Employees Union filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Walker with the Wisconsin Employer Relations Commission, alleging that he failed to negotiate in good faith.

Walker's office did not respond to a request for comment, but it released a statement accusing unions of being unwilling to make contract concessions.

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