CAP TIMES: Peaceful resistance planned for Sunday if police close Capitol

February 26, 2011
Ron Seely

With police planning to clear the state Capitol of protesters Sunday, some demonstrators Saturday night were preparing to peacefully resist removal from the building.

Capitol Police announced early Saturday that they intend to close down the Capitol at 4 p.m. Sunday. But little information was provided about exactly how the huge building will be cleared of thousands of protesters, some of whom have been sleeping on the marble floors since Feb. 15.

And there were several indications late Saturday that some won't walk out of the building when asked. Posters went up in several places announcing that three "non-violence training" sessions were scheduled for late Saturday night.

Also, organizers distributed instructions for those who choose to peacefully refuse to leave. Among the options listed was going limp and being carried out by officers.

"I will leave peacefully," said Neil Graupner, one of the protest organizers, Saturday. "But I can't speak for my friends."

Another protester spoke to the crowd about what to expect Sunday and how to behave.

"Don't fight with the people who carry us out tomorrow," she told the crowd. "They're not who our fight is with. It's with Scott Walker and the people who support his bill."

Some were questioning why it is necessary to remove the demonstrators. "I'd rather they keep the Capitol open," said Madison Mayor David Cieslewicz on Saturday.

Calls to the Capitol police and the Department of Administration for more information about how Sunday's removal will be handled were not returned. Joel DeSpain, a spokesman for the Madison Police Department, said the department has not been contacted about helping in the Capitol on Sunday.

Early Saturday night, police officers informed those who were camped on the building's upper floors they would have to move down to the main floor if they were going to spend the night. Also Saturday, the police were asking protesters to begin clearing personal belongings.

It added up to a rather wistful atmosphere as the demonstrators settled in for their last night of what has been a historic occupation of the Capitol and a transformation of the building into a very fancy community center. Little anger was evident and most seemed resigned to their removal. Many walked through reading and taking pictures of the thousands of signs plastered on every surface.

Some of those signs, with the moment about to pass, already seemed like poignant pieces of history.

"We were married here at the Capitol four years ago today," read one sign left leaning against the wall in a back hallway. "We're as proud to be here today as we were then. We love Wisconsin."