Pro-union Wisconsin protesters were effectively locked out of the Madison capitol building ahead of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget address Tuesday night -- so they directed their anger at a Republican lawmaker who happened to get stuck outside with them.
Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman was chased down and surrounded by protesters yesterday evening as he tried to enter the capitol. The video at left shows protesters chanting "Shame! Shame!" as they followed him. They followed Grothman until he was stuck at a locked entrance, at which point some started chanting "Peace!" to calm the crowd down.
The crowd numbered close to 200, according to the Capital Times. Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey, who was speaking to the protesters, ultimately assisted Grothman inside the building with the assistance of firefighters.
"This guy and I disagree on everything, but we're friends," Hulsey told the crowd, the Capital Times reports. "This is a peaceful protest. You need to back away."
Walker effectively kept the protesters outside by imposing a policy that restricted access to the capitol, arguing that the state has a responsibility to keep the building safe, clean and open for official business. A court order handed down said that the building must remain open to protesters, and hearings continue today over whether the state has inappropriately restricted access.
The din of thousands of protesters could be heard through the thick walls of the Assembly chamber during Walker's speech, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Grothman told the Capital Times he wasn't worried about walking through the crowd.
"I really think if I had had to, I could have walked through the crowd and it would have been okay," he said. "They're loud, they'll give you the finger, and they yell at you, but I really think deep down inside they're just mostly college kids having fun, just like they're having fun sleeping with their girfriends on air mattresses. That's the guts of that crowd."
Demonstrators have taken to the streets for days now in Wisconsin over Walker's "budget repair bill," which would, among other things, scale back public workers' benefits, as well as their collective bargaining rights.
On MSNBC Tuesday night, Grothman described the protesters as "a bunch of slobs taking up the building."
Observers outside of the capitol told the Capital Times they were surprised by the lack of law enforcement officers present during the dust up with Grothman.
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said yesterday that his deputies were ordered to keep people from entering the capitol, but that the duty was turned over to the Wisconsin State Patrol because "our deputies would not stand and be palace guards."
"I asked them to step aside. We were not there to prevent (citizens) access to the Capitol," Mahoney said, Wispolitics.com reports. "I refused to put deputy sheriffs in a position to be palace guards."
He added that he thought public safety was put at risk by limiting access to the capitol.
"I am confident having talked with our staff on the capitol grounds that we still have a peaceful demonstration," he said. "But it's crucial that individuals have a voice and access to their lawmakers."