March 13, 2011- Wisconsin’s protracted family fight over the budget and public employee unions moved to this Bayfield County town Saturday evening, as embattled Gov. Scott Walker spoke at an invitation-only event and was greeted by at least 2,000 angry protesters outside.
Walker arrived in a convoy of six unmarked police cars that pulled up at
5:45 p.m. to the Steak Pit for a Republican Lincoln Day fundraiser. The large, boisterous crowd, which had been lining the streets leading to the restaurant since 4:30, quickly recognized him and erupted in boos and shouts of “Recall Walker.”
The convoy moved through quickly and without incident, and most of the protesters began to follow a circuitous route on public pathways to a spot behind the restaurant where they continued the protest within earshot of the Republican Party faithful inside.
Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka said Saturday evening that he didn’t have a crowd estimate, but various people had estimated the size at between 2,000 and 5,000. So the protest
probably at least doubled the size of Washburn, which has a population of 2,271.
Susienka said there had been no incidents and no arrests.
“We wanted to be able to let people say their piece,” Susienka said. “Our primary focus was for the safety of the governor and the congressman.”
He referred to Rep. Sean Duffy, who arrived at the event well before Walker.
People were definitely saying their piece, greeting each vehicle that arrived for the dinner with shouts of “Shame!” while waving protest signs and shaking their fists. One person videotaped the license plates of at least some of the vehicles that entered.
Protesters banged pots, shook tambourines at car windows and sounded horns. Most of the drivers and their passengers stared straight ahead. They had to navigate through a narrow tunnel formed by protesters on both sides, held back by Bayfield County sheriff’s deputies and rally organizers.
Signs included “Gov. Walker, you probably can’t remember me, but … I can recall you” and “At least my Grandma’s Walker helps her.”