The GOP lame-duck measures drew hundreds of protesters to the Wisconsin State Capitol last night and more today. For some, it was their first-ever political protest, while for others it evoked the historic Act 10 demonstrations in 20-11.
Protesters returned today as lawmakers convened for sessions that could go until midnight or beyond. Some even heckled the governor at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Reporter Cameron Bren has more on the protests. Will Kenneally contributed additional reporting from the State Capitol on Monday.
Photo credit: Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
AUDIO of protest chants: “Respect our Votes! No Lame Duck!”
On Monday night, hundreds of protesters stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to what they call a power grab by the party that lost control of the executive branch. In a rare lame duck session, Republicans are pushing bills that could prevent Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-Elect Josh Kaul from implementing key parts of the platform they campaigned on.
James Korlack of Lake Mills says he is dissatisfied with how quickly the bills are moving through the legislature. “I oppose the fact they they are passing these power grabs over the weekend, without letting people say anything and just ignoring the will of the voters.”
For Julianne Zweifel of Madison, this move breaks Wisconsin’s long tradition of peaceful transitions of power. “It’s one of the foundations of our democracy. What’s happening now is a power grab and it’s entirely to the benefit of Republicans.”
Zweifel feels that the GOP can’t claim a public mandate for their actions because she feels they won their seats unfairly. “The Assembly was put in power through gerrymandering. They don’t actually represent the majority of Wisconsinites. And this is just furthering that problem.”
Kathryn Martin of Madison, expressed a similar pessimism of state politics. “The people voted and they’re just not listening to the will of the people. Here we are again after Act 10. Nobody listened to us then. Hopefully they’ll listen to us now. But it’s not looking good. ”
Marilyn Malot from Beloit says she doesn’t buy the argument from Republicans that the bills are about balancing power. “I think that’s kind of hog wash. Because if they felt that it needed to be rebalanced, why didn’t they do this before a lame duck session?”
Charlie Farmer, also from Beloit, said it was the plan to cutt early voting to only two weeks that brought him to the Capitol for his first ever protest. “Why would anyone in America want to restrict votes? It’s not believable. Not in my America.”
No one testified in favor of the bills at last night’s public hearing.
Governor-elect Tony Evers condemned the bills and says he is exploring a legal challenge should they be passed by the legislature.