March 9, 2011- Thousands of protesters rushed to the state Capitol Wednesday night as word spread of the hastily called votes that sent Gov. Scott Walker's controversial bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers speeding through the Legislature.
Shortly after 8 p.m., hundreds of protesters gathered outside the locked King Street entrance to the Capitol, chanting "Break down the door!" and "General strike!"
Moments later, police ceded control of the State Street doors and allowed the crowd to surge inside. The area outside the Assembly, which is scheduled to take the bill up at 11 a.m. Thursday, was jammed with protesters who chanted, "We're not leaving. Not this time."
Some said they planned to spend the night in the Capitol. Last week, a Dane County Circuit Court judge ordered dozens of protesters who had been occupying the Capitol for more than two weeks to leave.
It's not clear why police abandoned efforts to limit access to the Capitol Wednesday night, but Department of Administration spokesman Tim Donovan said "windows have been broken" to get in. He said he could not immediately provide specifics.
Protesters jammed three floors of the Capitol and packed the bridges that connect the four wings of the Capitol, prompting alarm by police and others that those parts of the building might collapse.
Some union leaders interviewed Wednesday night at the Madison Labor Temple indicated that strikes – which are illegal in Wisconsin for public-employee unions – are possible.
"Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin's working families in the dark of night," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. "Tonight's events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin's working families."