As the Capital Times reports, last night shortly after 8 p.m. a mob of up to 7,000 protesters, upset about the Senate’s action to move forward on certain legislative proposals in the absence of the “Badger 14″ Democrat senators who fled the state on February 17, invaded the locked Capitol Building, violating a judge’s order protecting the Capitol by permitting access only during normal business. A clip of live CNN coverage featuring audio of a key Republican senator, Glenn Grothman, explaining why the Republicans took this step yesterday, is here.
Last night the pivotal journalist on the scene was “New Media Meade” of the Althouse blog. He provided an eyewitness account of how this unlawful invasion apparently was engineered: Democrat staffers opened windows to let a few protesters in, who then opened doors for the others to enter, while law enforcement officers (at least some of them; see video of state troopers below) stood by and did nothing.
Ann Althouse’s initial report of a new surge in protest activity was posted at 7:40 p.m. here. Many of the 160+ comments (so far) provide helpful context, especially for non-Wisconsin readers.
Althouse then posted, at 8:34 p.m.:
Meade, who is in the building now, tells me, by phone, that he saw a window on the Wisconsin Avenue side of the building opened and protesters entering through that window.
He thought it seemed as if someone in one of the Democratic legislators’ offices had opened a window to let them in, and — once they were in — many doors have been opened all around, and people have streamed into the building. He says he counted 3 “troopers” — I’m not sure what the official job title is for these security people — and that they were absurdly overwhelmed by the crowd.
Meade said that he wasn’t afraid that these people would become violent, and indeed many of them looked happy — or dazed — perhaps out of success in taking over the building. He didn’t see any damage or dangerous behavior. Meade is taking video of what he is seeing, and I will have that for you later.
AND: Meade said that he didn’t see how the security officers could possibly clear out the building and that there was nothing to stop any number of individuals from entering the building right now.
At 8:38 p.m. (Central time), Glenn Reynolds started linking to Althouse’s posts, and the event quickly went viral on the web. A Livestream video feed on “The Uptake” channel quickly reached many thousands of viewers (as of now, it is still live, with about 1,600 viewers).
At 8:56 p.m. Althouse reported (again with many valuable comments posted in response):
Protesters are locking the Capitol doors shut from the inside using metal handcuffs, Meade reports from the scene.
He told me that just now, by phone. He got out, and is warning others not to go in. Obviously, it’s a terrible fire hazard to make it so people cannot get out of the building easily. Presumably, protesters think it’s a good idea to keep the police out, but it is dangerously stupid.
ADDED: Meade called back to say, some of the doors are handcuffed shut and some are wide open. “ANYBODY CAN GET IN AND ANYBODY CAN BRING ANYTHING IN. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SECURITY WHATEVER.”
AND: Meade — who just got home at 9 CT — says the police have the “fairly calm jocose” attitude that they’ve had all along. They have no riot gear, he said. The place is “swarmed” with protesters. Photos and video soon.
Photos of the handcuffed doors, and other photos of the chaos at the Capitol, were posted at 9:30 p.m. The 200+ comments on this post supply valuable context. More photos were posted at 11:25 p.m. and 11:38 p.m.
Similarly, a Big Government correspondent on the scene reported last night:
We have almost completely lost control of the Capitol building. We now only control the 3rd and 4th floors.
Teachers Unions are sending out robo calls and emails to all their members, asking them to get to the capitol NOW. We know this as a fact.
Democrat Senators are opening windows and letting protesters in. Door’s have been ripped off their hinges.
Next 6-8 hours will determine who controls the capitol. If we lose control, the assembly can’t meet tomorrow.
Quasi-military forces are the only option to win back control of building. They are very close to being called in.
Law enforcement are leaking legislators whereabouts to protesters. No one is safe.
Today they escorted State Senators across the street via an underground tunnel. It’s top secret, but protesters were waiting for them.
National Guard may be called in….plans have been set. We are running out of options.
After hours of reporting on the event, Meade safely extracted himself from the scene, and Althouse posted his video implicating the Democrat staff in the unlawful takeover of the Capitol Building, and a brief summary of the highlights, here.
Very early this morning, Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit made this post about a particularly disturbing video: “‘This is what democracy looks like.” Raging leftists stormed the Wisconsin Capitol last night screaming ‘peaceful protest’ while pushing and shoving their way past state troopers.” Ironically, the video was shot by someone on the protesters’ side, and the fact that that the state troopers tried to stand their ground as the mob — unlawfully invading the Capitol Building after hours — overwhelmed them is being cited in the video as an illegal act! You have to see it to believe it:
There is little doubt as to who — the protesters or the state troopers — was acting unlawfully here. As Hoft notes in his post, even the liberal student-run Badger Herald reported (here) that “the protesters were ‘more aggressive’ than normal.”
The aggressive and unlawful protest activity at the Capitol Building late last night may have legal implications, as Northwestern University law professor Jim Lingren points out: it supports the view that the Senate Republicans did not violate the Senate rules in the speed with which they acted on the proposed legislation. See here (bottom of post) (h/t Glenn Reynolds). (Senate Rule 25(1)(b) provides that “public notice of every meeting of a committee shall be given at least 24 hours before the commencement of the meeting, unless the committee on senate organization determines that for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical.” Lindgren opines: It would appear to me that the actions of the demonstrators tonight strengthen the factual case for such a determination (if one were made) — that safety concerns and a breakdown in order was reasonably feared.”).
Update (7:58 a.m.): The mob scene began even before the mob gained access to the Capitol Building, according to this report from the conservative MacIver Institute, concerning how its reporter “Bill Osmulski was singled out, surrounded, and confronted by protesters after the Senate passed a bill on collective bargaining.” Here’s that video:
Raw video of protesters entering the Capitol Building windows here.
Here are links to some of the local television reports:
Live video outside the Capitol Building, on Madison ABC
Update (10:33 a.m.): MORE VIDEO, and updates on mob rule in Madison (e.g., on how the Republican senators were forced to flee Madison after their vote), from Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit, here and here. His report on a death threat made against Republicans here.