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Wis. Capitol in confusion on lockdown

  |   Feb. 28, 2011 at 7:46 PM
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MADISON, Wis., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Wisconsin's Capitol was on lockdown Monday with some protesters holding their positions inside and police not allowing any more to get inside.

State Rep. Mark Pocan noticed about mid-afternoon that the dozens of police officers from across the state who were deployed at the Capitol were confused as to who was in charge or what the plan was for reopening the building, Madison's Wisconsin State Journal reported.

"There seems to be no chain of command," Pocan said.

Dozens of demonstrators spent the night inside the rotunda and planned to leave Monday morning but after the Department of Administration locked out the rest of the public, some protesters felt a duty to stay put, the Isthmus Daily Page reported.

"I'm not going to go anywhere until the doors open," protester Aly Kaplan said. "Somebody has to be here to represent what we're doing."

Most demonstrators have complied with newly instituted rules, which demand people stay on the ground floor.

Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats were attempting to convene a public hearing that would force officials to reopen the Capitol.

"My grandfather helped build this building," said LaVorn Dvorak, a retired social worker from Brooklyn, who was stuck outside for 2 hours in below-freezing temperatures. "I expect to be able to get in. Now they're telling us we can't get in to our own Statehouse."

As Dvorak spoke, there were chants of: "Let us in -- please." And "Whose house?" "Our house!"

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker's office released a statement Monday saying the option of refinancing debt in order to save $165 million will be lost unless Senate Democrats return to work and vote on it by Tuesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if Senate Democrats refuse to return to Wisconsin and cast their vote the next day the option to refinance a portion of the state's debt will be off the table," the statement says.

State Sen. Jim Holperin said Democratic senators who are holed up in Illinois to prevent a vote on Walker's budget-repair bill will talk about the refinancing deadline Monday, saying his colleagues "take it very, very seriously."

Holperin said Democrats are, however, serious about preserving the rights of union workers.

Blanca Martin, 29, of Stevens Point said the protests accomplished a lot, even as the budget-repair bill moves through the GOP-led Legislature.

It passed the Assembly last week but so far has been blocked in the Senate by all 14 Democratic state senators fleeing to Illinois.

Walker said he would be forced to order massive layoffs if his bill isn't passed. Union leaders said the governor is trying to dismantle collective bargaining.

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