Protesters continue to occupy the Wisconsin Capitol, despite police announcing earlier in the week that they would be asked to leave Sunday afternoon. Police decided on Sunday not to remove the protesters, which would end a nearly two-week-long sit-in, and have permitted them to stay.
Three hours after a deadline to vacate the building had passed, officers continued to look on quietly. Protest coordinator Erika Wolf made an announcement, which was greeted with cheers:
"There's really awesomely good news — that we're going to be able to stay here tonight."
Several hundred protesters ignored the request to leave by 4pm so that the building could get a thorough cleaning.
In an effort to fight against legislation proposed by the state's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, demonstrators began to camp out at the Capitol two weeks ago. Walker's legislation aims to strip most of the state's public employees of the right to collectively bargain. Democrats and union leaders say the bill is designed to undermine unions and week an important base of Democratic voters.
Gov. Walker, however, argues that the bill would help to close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-2013 budget. He also says it would free local governments from having to collectively bargain with public employee unions, which would give them flexibility to deal with coming budget cuts.
While the protesters have been allowed to stay in the building, Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said that they would have to relocate to the ground floor of the building overnight. Anyone who left the building could not return until Monday morning, when it would reopen at 8am. Police did allow food to be brought in, and will not arrest protesters as long as they continue to obey the law.
"People here have acted lawfully and responsibly. "There's no reason to consider arrests."
A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on the police decision to keep the Capitol open to demonstrators.
In an interview conducted earlier in the day on NBC's "Meet the Press", Gov. Walker said that the demostrations have not weakened his resolve:
"Year after year, governors and legislators before us have kicked the can down the road. We can't do that. We're broke. It's about time someone stood up and told the truth in our state and said here's our problem, here's the solution and let's do this."
Walker's proposal is currently stalled in the state Senate. 14 of the Democratic lawmakers fled the state and are staying somewhere in Illinoise. This left the Senate one vote short of a needed quorum. They have vowed to stay away from Wisconsin for as longas it takes.