State says Wisconsin Capitol Protesters have to leave Sunday

Thousands of demonstrators who have occupied the Capitol for nearly two weeks will have to leave by 4 p.m. Sunday, state Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said Friday.

In a statement, Tubbs said the building will reopen on Monday at 8 a.m. The Capitol police will then more closely monitor the number of people in the building.

The statement said protest organizers agreed to remove items from the building, which has been cluttered with sleeping bags and mattresses as well as hundreds of signs and posters. Walls throughout the building have been plastered with signs denouncing Gov. Scott Walker and his budget-repair plan that on some days has drawn tens of thousands of protesters and counterdemonstrators to the Capitol.

“We are closing the Capitol for a short period of time for public health reasons, as well as for general building maintenance,” Tubbs said.

Walker shot down suggestions that he wanted to remove protesters as soon as possible.

“There’s an interest by Capitol police, by the end of the weekend, to consider start going back to normal business hours at the Capitol,” Walker said Friday.

The Capitol police are a division of the state Department of Administration, which Walker oversees.

The Tubbs statement said that protesters were asked to remove all large items from the rotunda Friday, although little had been moved by early evening. And several officers said they have not been told to order any type of removal. Starting Saturday, protesters will not be allowed to bring mattresses and blankets into the building.

Protesters have been sleeping in hallways and in various nooks and crannies throughout the ornate structure, a practice that police stopped Friday night. For Friday and Saturday nights, people were to remain on the ground and first floors. As of Saturday, people were not to bring in blankets or other sleeping gear. And beginning Sunday night, people will not be allowed to stay overnight.

Earlier Friday, a flier was distributed to police patrolling the building saying that “soft items” were to be removed beginning at 4 p.m. Among the items to be removed were tables, folding chairs, large boxes, mattresses, food, coolers, extension cords, easels and slow cookers and other cooking appliances. The flier also stated that “animals/snakes (exception: service animals)” were banned.

Throughout the day Friday, demonstrators were boisterous, although they were generally orderly and polite. Dozens of protesters were seen going through a revolving door single file while chanting anti-Walker slogans.

Before the announcement that the Capitol would close Sunday, Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said Walker should keep the building open and allow the protesters to stay.

Palmer’s statement said “the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems.”

Any items left in the building after 4 p.m. Sunday will be taken to a designated lost and found within the Capitol for people to claim before 6 p.m. March 4.

On Monday, the Capitol will return to its normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.


Categories: Economy, Government, Labor, U.S. News, Workers Struggle

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