Protestors across US
Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Washington State in a show of solidarity as the demonstration in Madison entered its 12th straight day — and attracted its largest crowd of more than about 70,000 people.
Hundreds of people banged on drums and screamed into bullhorns inside the Capitol, while the others braved the sub-freezing temperatures and a heavy snowfall for a rally outside.
Rallies were held across the country Saturday to support thousands of protesters holding steady at the Wisconsin Capitol in their fight against Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker has introduced a bill that would require public sector workers to give more to their pensions and health care. Other provisions in the measure would strip almost all public workers, from librarians to snow plow drivers, of their right to collectively bargain on their benefits and work conditions.
Several thousand people gathered in Columbus, Ohio, where lawmakers are considering a similar bill. Large crowds of teachers, firefighters and public workers also gathered for rallies in other capital cities including Topeka, Kan.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Olympia, Wash.
Walker has said the proposal will help balance the state’s current $137 million shortfall and help close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the upcoming 2011-13 two-year budget. He also says freeing local governments from collective bargaining will give them the flexibility they need to deal with deep cuts coming in his budget.
The bill has sent Democrats and unions into an outrage. They see it as trampling on workers’ rights and as an attempt to destroy Democrats’ strongest campaign allies.
Saturday’s crowd jammed the Capitol steps, packed the ice-covered lawn — some sat in trees — and filled surrounding streets. Several thousand counter-protesters came out last Saturday to support Walker, but they were hardly visible this time.
Capitol police planned to let protesters stay overnight Saturday into Sunday, but plan to finally close the building Sunday afternoon to let crews clean it.
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