Wisconsin Protests, Thursday, March 3, 2011


"Based on the hearings before the court on March 1, 2011, through March 3, 2011, and the court having concluded that the current Department of Administration policy regarding access to the State Capitol violates the State Constitution and that unauthorized materials and people remaining in the State Capitol beyond closing each day are in violation of state law, now therefore, is it ordered that the defendant DOA shall do the following:

1. DOA shall immediately enforce its inherent authority pursuant to Admin. Chapter 2, including, but not limited to, taking such action as allowed under law to remove unauthorized materials and people remaining in the State Capitol after 6 p.m. today.

2. By 8 a.m. March 8, 2011, DOA shall open the State Capitol to all members of the public and rescind the access policies in effect on Jan. 28, 2011.

This order shall remain in effect until further order consistent with the court's decision of March 3, 2011."

The order was signed by Circuit Judge John Albert.

Rally participants carry inflated palm trees, mocking footage from Fox News of a "Wisconsin" rally highlighting angry pro-union protesters with palm trees in the backgroundFOX'S THE PALM TREES ARRIVE BUT NOT THE BALMY WEATHER NURSES RALLY ON THE CAPITOL STEPS

From Erica Pelzek. View the photo essay here.


Brendan Fischer reports:

After disagreement and discussion between attorneys for each side about what an order would consist of, an exhausted-sounding Judge Albert said: "I think I have given sufficient direction and authority to the Department [of Administration] to keep the capitol open ... can I ask you two to confer, and fax something to me by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning?"

Judge John C. Albert presides over a hearing at the Dane County Courthouse (Photo courtesy of AP)DOA counsel insisted on getting an order tonight. Judge Albert asked attorneys from the two sides to work out an order, submit it to him, he will add his findings, and his staff will write up an order this evening.

Finally, Lautenschlager asked for permission that legal observers from SEIU and others gain access to the capitol. DOA counsel said that legal observers "could meet capitol police at 7:30 p.m. to help facilitate removal, and they would be asked to leave once their functions are fulfilled."

As of 7:00 p.m., attorneys from both sides are conferring over the terms of the order.

6:55 p.m. - From Brendan Fischer:

Judge Albert continues: "At some point during the protests, the capitol was open, probably in excess of what constitutional requirements impose. Unlimited access, sleeping in the capitol, supplies in the capitol, a medical station, a daycare. I am not critical [of this], but because of the situation, there need to be limits. There is a significant risk to protesters, law enforcement [etc], and now we have a situation where, as [DOA Secretary] said, there are restrictions that have never been in place, for at least sixteen years.

The principal limitation is common sense: you cannot camp out or sleep in the capitol when it is closed.

I want to make clear that my ruling ... allows the Secretary to issue permits as to time, place, and manner [of protests] ... the rules and enabling legislation is already there, and I need go no further.

The capitol must be open any time when either branch of legislature is in session, or when hearings are ... but it is completely within the rights of the capitol staff to restrict access to people entering with sleeping materials, and who intend to stay after hours.

They must allow free speech in the rotunda. I am not sure about the first floor, but that may be the subject of litigation as this case moves forward.

I will leave discretion in the hands of the DOA, who have showed they are responsive to protesters needs, and respect free speech and free association.

They are telling me they are at the point where they can't reopen the capitol. Open, closed, is a matter of semantics ... DOA can remove the 99 people inside the capitol with the authority they have. I believe they can do it humanely. It can be done forthwith, or when the DOA believes it can be done with the least risk of injury to protesters.

I think we are in a transition period, and it can be discussed on appeal ... it would be unreasonable to believe there will be no more protests.

The order is that the capitol be opened, in accordance with what I have ruled, with all due speed ... the DOA should try to do it within 48 hours, but my deadline for compliance will be 8:00 a.m. Monday morning on March 8.

I would like to see the capitol as open as it was on January 28, 2011, before the circumstances that brought us here. But not as open [as it was at the height of protests].

My order, is that the DOA allow rallies and protests in the areas I have talked about [the rotunda, and possibly the first floor], but can deny access during a rally to the corridors that go to the offices of the legislators. I say that because there will be concurrent use, when a protest is happening, that people will want to visit their legislator, and they should be able to do so without convincing law enforcement of the need to visit their legislator.

DOA counsel: "Our understanding is that, there are more people now inside, and I am not sure we will make the 8pm timeframe."

Lautenschlager: "My understanding is that, after a rally, there was a door open on State Street and people have entered."

Judge Albert: I am talking about the 99 people who have stayed inside overnight, but I am placing no restrictions on DOA's authority to clear people out....

5:27 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports:

After counsel for both sides finished their closing arguments, Judge Albert indicated what he is planning for the order.

He said he is planning to enter an order stating "a reasonable restraint on the use of the capitol is that you cannot sleep overnight. You cannot camp out, you cannot enter with sleeping materials. The reason I say that is a reasonable restraint is that, if the building is closed, there is nobody to listen to a demonstration. It increases security costs...." He implied that the order would take place almost immediately, prior to the doors closing in 40 minutes.

Judge Albert continued: "I have a letter, that I ask that you give to all the protesters over there, asking them to comply with an order ... based on testimony, I think that some will respond, but some will and some won't."

Judge Albert then asked counsel from both sides to consult about what would be reasonable terms of capitol access, and adjourned, he said, "until I have time to collect my thoughts. Period."

5:21 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports from the TRO court hearing:

"Based on testimony from 32 witnesses, I find that plaintiffs are entitled to an injunction. They have met the "reasonable likelihood of success on the merits. Plaintiffs as a group, must be commended for their conduct for an activity that constituted the largest expression of free speech in addressing our government in the history of our state."

Judge Albert read from the testimony of an officer:

"I never, never have experienced anything like this in my life ... this many people, 11 from the interior branch [meaning arrested inside the capitol], none since Sunday night, has been exceptional. There is nowhere else in the country that has gone through what we have been through. Protesters have been polite, they have been peaceful, they have been civil." When asked if the professionalism of the law enforcement played a role, she agreed. Judge Albert thanked law enforcement officers for their professionalism and constraint.

"The photographs and testimony of the witnesses convinced me that, at the height of the demonstrations, when the most people were in the capitol, a hazardous situation existed. We are lucky that nothing happened. If there had been a mass exodus from the capitol, generated through panic, or a fire, or a weapon, or I won't say what else, but people could have been seriously injured or died."

Judge Albert referred again to students rushing Camp Randall after a Badgers win a few years ago, and how we quickly had "pulseless non-breathers."

"There are plenty of people who have a vested interest in the outcome of this ruling, political, economic, or otherwise. I ask that you remain respectful when the ruling is announced."

"Since Monday and Tuesday, it has been difficult to get into the capitol. The queue system, the one-in one-out system, has closed the capitol impermissibly ... the statement that punctuates this comes from the Secretary of the DOA, who, in response to a question about whether there he has ever seen anything like what we have seen today, he said: "I can think of no other time when we have seen the crowds that we have seen at the capitol, so my answer, my direct answer, would be no."

"Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle have had difficulty entering the capitol, and during the protests, difficulty doing their work" which, he said, "I am very concerned about."

"I am surprised, and remain surprised about [the fact that] the fire code does not apply to the capitol. There is no maximum capacity, like we would have in a restaurant. The Department of Administration may have to come up with a number as to who they let in for future demonstrations of free speech ... but it is not up to me to make that decision."

"the rules [of capitol access] that have been changing over the past few days, although I find them unconstitutional, are a good-faith effort" by the DOA Secretary and law enforcement, who he said "were caught off-guard by the number of people who came to the capitol to see their legislators, or to protest and express their disagreement with the executive and legislative branch."

"This decision has nothing to do with my personal opinion on these issues. Judicial rules are clear [as to recusal] ... I am perfectly capable of looking aside and apart from, and divorcing myself, from how I feel."

"Demonstrators is not a word that should be used in a vein of disrespect. The people that have testified, and lots of people like them, the nurses, the teachers ... those are professions that, generally speaking, attract law-abiding and professional individuals. There are also attorneys, prison guards, firefighters, ironworkers - I don't think we have a pastor - those people were exercising a basic constitutional right, an important one, and one that is unique in the world, although some [countries] are starting to catch up."

"But those prison guards, firefighters, and police officers, they risk their lives every time they punch in. There should be no disrespect when we talk about demonstrators."

"I cannot accept the rules in place this week as constitutional. I have had my eyes opened [by DOA counsel] as to the places where permits can be issued for free speech ... but I find that existing rules, [Administrative Code] 203, 204, 208 give the state what they need to keep the capitol open."

The judge said that certain parts of the capitol [including the rotunda] are free speech zones subject to higher protections, but hallways may be off-limits, or may require permits to hold a demonstration. The judge said the fact that a demonstration may be loud is not a reason for excluding demonstrations: "there is nothing wrong with loud and raucous, and if legislative offices are bothered, so be it."

5:20 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that as the judge came closer to a ruling on the TRO, and as a rally geared up on the Capitol Square, the lines of people waiting to enter the Capitol shrunk from several hundred to just four or five individuals.

5:16 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports:

DOA counsel asked the court not to issue an injunction. "The court should give substantial weight to public safety or the adverse impact an injunction might have on the operations of the public building ... we ask that, if the court issues an injunction, they do so in collaboration with capitol officials ... an injunction that says "the capitol is open" is not reasonable and is unworkable."

After DOA counsel raised several other issues, Judge Albert said "I am hesitant to overstep my authority ... and make an order, that, in this political climate, will result in more protests and demonstrations."

DOA counsel replied: "Our goal is to take back the capitol, which has been occupied, and get back to business as usual."

Judge Albert asked the attorney "I think you are from Iowa."

"I am," he replied.

Judge Albert: "A few years ago, we had a football game, and students rushed the field. There were no doors in the stadium, and in a few minutes law enforcement was overcome. In a few minutes we had PNBs, pulseless not breathing ... in your view, is this a concern?"

DOA counsel agreed.

Judge Albert: "Can I take judicial notice that, for several entrances, there are slow-moving revolving doors, and only a few doors on each side?"

DOA Counsel agreed. Judge Albert asked if counsel had any other arguments, and DOA's attorney discussed the cost of staffing when protesters are in the building.

As the attorney continued his closing statement, Judge Albert said: "I am looking for, and surprised I did not hear, a building capacity argument ... and I was listening for, but did not hear, a number from your side, as to how many people can be let in, to exercise their free speech rights, inside the capitol rotunda."


From Brendan Fischer:

Judge Albert: "Do you believe that it would be adequate if I issued an order that says 'just leave when the building closes, when no hearings are happening'?"

DOA Counsel: "Yes, I believe that is an adequate limitation."

Counsel insisted there is a government interest in limiting access. "We have a government interest in maintaining a workplace where people can work without earplugs ... in providing a place where middle school bands can come and visit the capitol ... an interest in averting violence and damage to the capitol." (the last point drew boos from the viewing room)

Counsel continued: "The question is, how can we meet that government interest?"

From the crowd: "you kill the bill!"

Peggy Lautenschlager, attorney for the petitioners, in a hearing at the Dane County Courthouse (Photo courtesy of AP)4:40 p.m. - JUDGE HINTS AT ORDER

CMD's Brendan Fischer reports:

Lautenschlager's closing statement: "We are here today to determine if the policies promulgated by the DOA are unconstitutional ... political speech has higher protections under law than other speech ... restrictions on those types of speech must be narrowly tailored ... and the rallies in past weeks are the types of participatory democracy our founding fathers envisioned."

"There is no compelling state interest" with restricting access to the capitol, and there have been "hundreds of years of unfettered access. 9/11 didn't justify a lockdown, 100,000 protesters last Saturday did not justify a lockdown."

"Access to the capitol has been limited in a way that makes no sense, and has no historical parallel, and quells the voices of those who want to speak. The capitol is a unique place that promotes public expression to an even higher degree than the U.S. capitol."

"Rules that restrict Constitutional rights need to be necessary because of a significant concern that rises against constitutional rights ... in this case, DOA already has sufficient rules in place, but rather than enforcing those rules, it creates draconian rules that violate expressive rights and rights to petition their government."

Lautenschlager referred to testimony from an officer who, in response to a question about safety concerns during the protests and in the capitol, said they could do nothing about people carrying guns to rally "because of the Second Amendment. But we can violate the First Amendment inside the capitol?" she asks.

Lautenschalger brings up the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Westboro Church case, which she described as "an issue of how much we can tolerate as a nation in order to express rights. The Court held that expression of a political idea cannot be prohibited, no matter how offensive."

In response, the Judge claims that case, Snyder v Phelps, is not political speech, as Westboro church protesters were claiming that god was punishing American soldiers.

Lautenschlager replies that "yes, it is political speech. The Westboro church protesters were claiming that America's laws permitting abortion were responsible for the deaths of servicemen. They are making a political statement."

As the closing arguments wrap up, Judge Albert asks: "Do you think these 99 people should be allowed to sleep in the capitol indefinitely?"

Lautenschlager replies: "DOA has rules they can enforce that can prohibit these individuals from sleeping in the capitol. The DOA should not pass draconian laws that exceed anything in this state's history."

Judge Albert: "Do you have a problem with an order from this court that says, in the very near future, DOA remove the people sleeping in the capitol in a humane and respectful matter without the use of force?"

Lautenschlager: "Our concern is with access for the people outside the capitol, and their ability to access it ... A, I don't represent these folks (those sleeping in the capitol). B, I am not sure their departure will allow us to have access to the capitol. Perhaps the Court could say "DOA should exercise its power," but the issue before the court is whether people should have access."

Judge Albert: "Would you have a problem with an order from me that says 'you can protest, you can rally, any time the building is open, or even after hours, when at least one assembly is in session, or when a hearing is happening ... the only restraint would be you cannot bring a pillow, sleeping bag, or the like, otherwise you cannot be let in."

Lautenschlager: "I believe that is the current law, and I would have no problem with that."

4:00 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the Judge just called a 15-minute recess, then each side will make closing arguments.

Constitutional Crisis Capitol Crackdown effectively emptied the Capitol building.3:56 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports: After 14 days of thousands of protesters packing the Capitol rotunda with chants, drumming and makeshift living areas, the "Constitutional Crisis" Capitol Crackdown served to effectively empty the building as of Monday, Feb. 28. There were a few hold-outs in the building when this photo was taken, however. Spotted were several air mattresses and a pop-up medical clinic. The drumming was still present, but the roars of cheering protesters has diminished dramatically. Less than 100 protesters milled around the ground-floor Rotunda Thursday afternoon.


CMD's Brendan Fischer reports from TRO court hearing:

A Madison firefighter testified that firefighters were called to the capitol March 2 for an elevator rescue. According to his testimony, they approached the capitol in a ladder truck with lights and sirens, and arrived to the West Washington entrance. The firefighters were denied access at the doors by guards. The firefighters let guards at door know they were at the capitol for an emergency call, not to protest, but were still denied access.

Eventually, the firefighters were able to enter through an alternate entrance, adding approximately fifteen minutes onto what was reported as an emergency call.

"We didn't know what the problem was. It could have been a senior citizen having a health problem, or fifty college kids stuck inside the elevator."

"What did you find in the elevator?" asked former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.

"We found a trapped police officer," he replied, eliciting laughs from the viewing audience.


Erica Pelzek reports:

Wisconsin State Democratic Senate staffs have had little trouble keeping operations running normally since the Senate passed a resolution designating Republican senators as Democratic senate staff supervisors, according to State Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, staffers, whom the Center for Media and Democracy checked in with Thursday afternoon.

"Our office has been assigned Dale Schultz, Senator Schultz, and he's been great. Our office has always been very friendly with other offices. We have no problem with them. We are very friendly with them.

They're doing what they need to do," she said. "The clamp-downs that they have installed have not really effected" day-to-day business operations for the Risser staff.

The staffer also noted that she heard other offices were visited by their Republican supervisors, and that many of the Republican "supervisors" felt it was awkward to insert themselves into offices with which they have had long-term working relationships.

"So, you know, even crossing party lines we still get along with them well personally," she said.

What's more, she noted, was that the Risser office has had minimal trouble getting work done since the protests in Madison began 16 days ago.

"We've come here everyday since this all started and we've been able to get our work done and process things. Even when there were thousands of people milling around it was no problem, we just had more visitors," she said.

"But," she noted, laughing, "you can only really get stuff done when the phones stop ringing."

Dispelling a rumor that Democratic Senators' offices were not answering phones due to fears of being fired by their newly appointed Republican Senate "overlords," she explained the Risser office simply had trouble keeping up with all the phones, because MoveOn.org put out a press release instructing constituents to call their 14 Democratic senators' offices.

Regarding the Senate Resolution passed Thursday morning that would hold Democratic senators in contempt if they do not return to the Capitol by 4 p.m. today, she said she does not anticipate the senators coming back by that time--40 minutes from now. When the senators will return then, is a mystery to us all.

"Even if he did know when he would return, he wouldn't tell us," she said. "But Senator Risser is doing just fine. He's keeping very busy. I know they [the Democratic 14] meet a couple times a day everyday."


UW-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling testified in Dane County court today that 41 rounds of ammunition were found strewn around three entrances to the Capitol this morning.


CMD's Mary Bottari reports:

As the Wisconsin Senate remained in lockdown today in violation of a court order, Wisconsin Republican leadership turned up the heat on the missing 14 Wisconsin democratic legislators with an unprecedented series of new actions and rules that may be unconstitutional.

A resolution Thursday by all 19 Republicans authorizes that Senate Democrats to be taken into custody for being in "contempt of the Senate," and issued a deadline of 4:00 p.m. CST.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the actions were justified because the 14 "have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis." However, the Wisconsin Constitution only allows lawmakers to be arrested during the session for "treason, felony and breach of peace."

More to come.


A special report from Lynn Welch:

On February 21, the New York Times created a stir in Wisconsin by printing a front page article giving the impression that union families supported Governor Scott Walker's attempt to remove collective bargaining rights from workers. On Feb. 26. The New York Times retracted information related to this article.

The lead of the Times story entitled "Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin to Fray" featured a former Janesville General Motors employee Rich Hahn. Hahn is characterized as "...a man who has worked at unionized factories, [and] a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker's sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers." In the story reporters A.G. Sulzberger — said to be the son of New York Times Co. Chairman of the Board Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.— and Monica Davey spend very little time quoting Hahn but a lot of time characterizing him. "He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations," the story says of Hahn.

Walker referred to the story and Hahn's quote as "one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism," to the now-famous prank call from a Buffalo Beast blogger posing as Walker campaign contributor David Koch.

Walker also urged legislators questioning his proposal to "get that story printed out and send it to anybody giving you grief," in that call. He also used the story in interview after interview making the case that workers supported him even workers from union families. As it turns out, the moment was nothing resembling "true journalism" Hahn is not a "union guy" at all.

From the correction: "While the man, Rich Hahn described himself to a reporter as a "union guy," he now says that he has worked at unionized factories, but was not himself a union member. (The Times contacted Mr. Hahn again to review his background after a United Auto Workers official said the union had no record of his membership.)

The story goes onto contend that in Wisconsin "There are deeply divided opinions and shifting allegiances over whether unions are helping or hurting people who have been caught in the recent economic squeeze. And workers themselves, being pitted against one another, are finding it hard to feel sympathy or offer solidarity, with their own jobs lost and their benefits and pensions cut back or cut off."

The entire article paints a picture of a imaginary divide. A national Gallup survey released last week suggested that a majority of Americans oppose measures like the one proposed in Wisconsin that would restrict collective bargaining rights for public employees. A New York Times/CBS News poll out today produces almost identical results: 60% say they oppose curtailing bargaining rights of public workers, while 33% favor it. Public Policy Polling conducted a poll recently of Wisconsinites that showed 57% said they thought public employees in Wisconsin should be allowed to collectively bargain on wages, benefits and working conditions, while 37% said they should not.


12:53 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that there are less than 100 people inside the Capitol. She visited Julie Lassa's office and found no basis for the rumor that she had been kicked out of her office. Furniture and staffers are still there. Mark, the media relations contact for Senator Lassa's office says that holding Senators in contempt means that they can be returned to session with or without force, however the State Constitution says that elected officials cannot be arrested while the State is in session.


For the third time in the past two weeks, a national poll has found that roughly 60% of all Americans oppose eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, the highly contentious proposal put forward by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) that has deadlocked the state government and prompted weeks of protests inside the Wisconsin State Capitol.

In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 62% of Americans said it was "unacceptable" to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees, nearly twice as many as the 33% who said that was acceptable. Furthermore, nearly eight in ten said public employees should have the same bargaining rights as people in the private sector.

The results are striking in that they affirm what have become incredibly consistent findings on the issue of whether people think public employee unions should have the power to collectively bargain. Three national polls now, including this latest one, have produced similar results within a two percent margin.

In a Gallup poll released last week, 61% of all Americans said they would oppose a bill that would roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees if one were proposed in their state. And in a New York Times/CBS poll released Monday, 60% of Americans said they opposed cutting collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll is also interesting in that the wording of the questions, more so than previous polls on the issue, most closely reflected the situation in Wisconsin. The survey asked whether it was acceptable for elected officials to do a number of things to reduce a state's budget deficit, including:

"Eliminate public employees' right to collectively bargain over health care, pensions, and other benefits when negotiating a union contract."

That's the argument Gov. Walker has been making in Wisconsin. Unions have already agreed to make a number of concession on the amount of money they contribute to their benefit packages, though the Governor has held out, insisting that collective bargaining rights must also be eliminated in order for the state to balance its budget.

As Walker continues his push to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees, polls continue to show public opinion firmly against his proposals. Most ominously, a poll of Wisconsin voters found the state evenly split over whether he should be recalled -- even though he's only been in office for two months.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll was conducted February 24-28 among 1,000 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.1%.

12:47 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports from inside the Capitol that crowds are much smaller than before.

12:23 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that tables with supplies, food and other goods are set up outside the Capitol at the King Street entrance.


11:33 a.m. - The court hearing regarding the temporary restraining order has been postponed until 1:00 p.m. today. Check back for updates.

11:30 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that a few hundred people are outside the Capitol now, waiting to get inside. Security is still permitting one person entry for each person that exits, which means lines aren't really moving. The immigrant march groups are culminating at the Capitol Square.


CMD's Lisa Graves reports:

The "League of American Voters" Launches Robo-Calls and Ads Backing Walker

Seemingly right on cue, a group that has previously refused to name its donors, the self-designated "League of American Voters" (LAV), began robo-calls and ads in Wisconsin late last week. LAV has been the vehicle for other PR campaigns in support of top items on the GOP agenda, including extending the Bush tax cuts which included big breaks for the wealthiest Americans and opposing health insurance reform. LAV is a DC-based group whose address is the exact same as at least one other group that has received Koch-related funding but claims to be merely a tenant.

Read the full report here.


CMD's Mary Bottari reports:

Shadowy "issue ad" groups that do not disclose their funders as well as heavy hitter political action committees are rushing to the aid of embattled Wisconsin Senator Scott Walker, whose poll number are dropping like a rock. The list of outside big money attacking Wisconsin state workers and teachers read like a "who's who" of the Republican donor and special interest group apparatus.

Read the complete article here.

Fox News used footage from California rally -- complete with palm trees -- in segment on Wisconsin protestsFOX NEWS' "MADISON PROTEST" FOOTAGE AIMS TO DECEIVE

CMD's Anne Landman reports:

On February 28, the O'Reilly Factor aired a video news segment by Fox Channel reporter Mike Tobin, who was shown reporting from inside the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. "News" footage aired during his broadcast of goings-on outside the capitol depicts an angry, out-of-control, crowd of pro-union protesters yelling and pushing people around. But the protesters in the video are wearing shirtsleeves and standing on a street lined with tall palm trees and other green, leafy foliage -- and that is absolutely not February in Madison, where no palm trees live outside of greenhouses and where temperatures have been well below freezing for most of the winter. Fox clearly used out-of-town footage to depict the "violence" it is hyping as happening in Madison. The segment is two minutes, nine seconds long, and the palm tree footage occurs at the 1:42 mark, as wording on the screen says "Union Protests."



"Wisconsin is certainly facing some significant budget challenges but its public worker pension system isn't one of them."


"Gov. Scott Walker wants to again give insurance companies discretion over whether they will cover contraception."


"Are you interested about how the state's new campaign funding law for Supreme Court will work?"

"Take a good look, because the spring election is probably the last time you'll see it."


"Local governments like Madison and Dane County can't afford to pay for everything. At least that's the premise behind the portion of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill that would strip almost all collective bargaining rights from most public worker unions."


"A judge weighing whether state officials overstepped their bounds by restricting protesters' access to the state Capitol nearly ordered all the demonstrators out on moments' notice Wednesday evening before state and union attorneys talked him out of it."


"With controversial labor legislation stalled in the Wisconsin Senate, activists have launched petition drives to recall 13 state senators and efforts to recall three more are apparently in the works."

"The drives — targeting both Republicans and Democrats — come amid an ongoing fight over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill, which would strip most state workers from their collecting bargaining rights."


"The one Capitol protester most willing to suffer for the cause of collective bargaining is not a union member, owns a small business, finds some common cause with the Tea Party, and is no big fan of President Obama."

"Xav Leplae has been among the protesters on and off over the last two weeks, but there for good since Saturday, which is also the day he decided to go on a hunger strike."


The bill passed the Senate 17 to 16, with 6 Republicans voting against it. Ohio's bill does not go as far as Wisconsin in limiting collective bargaining rights, but bans the use of strikes and grants the power to break an impasse to local officials rather than a neutral arbiter (thereby giving the upper hand to the government employer). The House still must pass it, and Democrats are planning a referendum to overturn the bill in the fall.


"As the Wisconsin public workers' protests against Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip their collective bargaining rights stretches into its 17th day, national groups on both sides are launching air strikes. But neither side's advertisements seem geared to help end the stalemate."


Gov. Christie appears to be distancing himself from Walker, despite comparisons between the two governors.


"With recall efforts under way on both sides over Wisconsin's bitter budget battle, here's a look at which state senators could be vulnerable based on the recent voting history of their districts."


"Gov. Scott Walker, caught up in a battle over his budget-repair bill, plans to meet Thursday morning with Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha)."

"The meeting will take place in the governor's office in the State Capitol."


"With issues of free speech and assembly on the line, the hearing this week before Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Albert on organized labor's effort to force the state to provide more access to the State Capitol is an important one."

"The state Department of Administration, represented by Asst. Atty. Gen. Steven Means, has argued that the state has been more than reasonable and accommodating in allowing thousands of people to demonstrate inside and outside the building against Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill."

"The Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, AFL-CIO, lead by former Atty. Gen. Peggy Lautenschlager, went to court in the first place because the organization said access to the Capitol was being denied to people who wanted their voices heard."

"Albert is expected to hear from more witnesses on Thursday and make a decision."

10:50 a.m. - PROTESTERS LEAVE NOTES for their representatives on the doors of the Capitol.


The Nation, John Nichols reporting:

A judge has ordered the governor and his aides to open the Capitol.

Obviously shaken by the popular rejection of his proposal—which has sparked protests across the state, including one that drew more than 100,000 people to Madison last Saturday—the governor and his aides have failed to comply with the order. Instead, they have restricted access so severely that, in the words of former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, they make a mockery of the state's tradition of open and accessible government.

"Opening the Capitol to the public does not mean letting one person in every three hours, as then restricting the movements of that one person once she is inside," explains Lautenschlager. "The governor and his aides are not respecting the judge's order; they are in contempt of it."

As Lautenschlager and her legal team attempt to open the Capitol, some legislators have grown so frustrated with the governor's lawlessness that they have moved their desks out of the building in order to be accessible to their constituents.

On Wednesday, a number of Democrats state Assembly members began meeting with the people they represent along the outside wall of the Capitol, beneath a banner that read: "Assembly Democrats Are Open for Business."

"We are out here because our governor and the Department of Administration are ignoring a judge's court order," said Assembly minority leader Peter Barca, who was joined by state representatives Fred Clark, Nick Milroy and Cory Mason.

With them was former US Representative Dave Obey, a Democrat who began his political career as an Assembly member.

Obey said that, on Wednesday, he was denied entry to the Capitol for the first time in his five decades of public service and active citizenship.

"I think the governor is a political bully and a political thug," Obey said, who urged the governor to stop locking citizens—and in some cases legislators—out of the building and begin negotiating with the fourteen Democratic senators who fled to Illinois when it became evident that the governor and his cronies were not going to allow an honest debate on the union-busting bill.

"I think the governor has needlessly divided the state," explained Obey. "I can't think of a bill that will do more to weaken the future of Wisconsin. This is an anti-education, anti-union budget, and people ought to understand that."


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