Wisconsin is pretty well steamed at this point, that's for sure.
There's one thing that Walker's been right about all along: People in Wisconsin are, by and large, polite. We make certain exceptions when it comes to football, but even there fans known as passionate rather than violent. There's a certain live and let live attitude here that makes us prefer reasoned debate and friendly argument to in-your-face confrontation. This is why these demonstrations have been categorized by stories of protesters having beers with counter-protesters; not tales of tear gas and riot gear.
Walker and/or his advisors seem to have started out thinking that being polite means that we're pushovers. As the protests continued, they started realizing their mistake, and are now trying to physically remove the protesters from the vicinity of the capitol building. This, I believe, is a serious miscalculation.
Wisconsin has always had an unusually open policy in regard to the capitol building. I've been there six or seven times in my life, and I don't recall ever seeing so much as a guard at the outer doors. Certainly no one has ever stopped me to show ID or state my business there. For the most part, anyone can just walk right in and explore, with only certain areas off-limits or requiring an appointment.
So Walker's sudden change in this policy is something of a shock. The building is still almost entirely off-limits today, still in defiance of a court order. Further hearings are being held this morning. People are being allowed in only with badges, only to attend specific open meetings, and only as many are allowed as there are seats in a particular meeting room.
Not only are they not allowing people into the building, they're slowly starting to close off the streets leading to the building. Those demonstrators still inside are having difficulties getting food and supplies, because no one is allowed to bring them in. A nurse, who was allowed in to treat a protester suffering from late-stage cancer who has refused to leave, has reportedly not been allowed to retrieve her medical supplies
, or to have anyone bring them to her.
They can only push people back so far -- the building is literally in the exact center of the downtown business area -- but the mere fact that they're doing this is going to spark something, and I don't see how it can be a good something.
Rumor has it that tunnels between the capitol building and the Risser Building nearby are being used to allow Walker supporters full access, while keeping everyone else out. (During Walker's speech, the room was packed with people in favor of the bill while those against were all stuck outside.) Entrances to these tunnels are reportedly being guarded by plainclothes agents from the Milwaukee bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice
, agents who usually investigate such crimes as homicide, arson, and (interestingly) government corruption.
Now they're "palace guards", since the county law enforcement refused to take that role.
I feel like everyone is being forced to choose a side, and there's no way this is going to end well if it keeps festering like this. Walker refuses to set an example and start healing the breach; and no one else is really in a position to do that. I'm very, very uneasy and unhappy about the situation right now.