Protests continued at the Capitol as crowds swelled to over 68,000 according to unofficial estimates. Other estimates put the crowd size at around 100,000. Debates became even more heated as members of the Tea Party participated in the protests for the first time on Saturday. Debates also heated up inside the Capitol as the Senate Democrats currently at an undisclosed location in Illinois offered to agree to the financial stipulations in Gov. Walker’s budget proposal as long as he struck any language regarding the termination of the affected state’s unions to collectively bargain. Gov. Walker has rebuffed this proposal with Senate Republicans backing his decision, much to the dismay of the Senate Democrats and many of the protesters on the square. This begs the question as to what is going to happen next? With both sides at an apparent stalemate and legislative government effectively shut down this has effectively become a high-stakes of political chicken…and it doesn’t appear that either side is going to blink any time soon. There are those both within the state and at the national level that view this bill, and indeed these protests as a referendum on worker’s rights in the nation. The protests continue to draw national attention and headlines as all the major media outlets have set up shop in Madison and it is has attracted the likes of Jesse Jackson and AFL-CIO chair Richard Trumka to the Capitol steps. The coming week looks like it is going to be even more contested as both sides are dug in for the long haul.
One thing that is worth mentioning, and commending has been the overall civility of the protests. Even on a day where both sides met in the streets surrounding the Capitol it has been noted that there have been no arrests, no incidences of vandalism, or cries of injustice by either side. Instead the protesters are engaging in civil debate, and even when the debates are contested both sides can agree to disagree, shake hands, and go about their separate ways. The protesters are even picking up after themselves and helping to clean up the mess after the day’s events. This is what democracy should be. We all have disputes and things that we believe to be sacrosanct, but at the end of the day, our belief in democracy and a right to free expression, reigns supreme.