Peaceful Protests Lead To No Arrests

Madison Police Thank Protesters For Civility

Published On: Feb 19 2011 05:53:03 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 20 2011 01:15:28 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

Madison police estimated that crowds on the Capitol Square on Saturday peaked at about 60,000 people. That's not much less than a Wisconsin Badgers football game at Camp Randall, but police reported that despite the crowds there were no arrests made.

For the first time since the protests started at the State Capitol over Gov. Walker's "budget repair bill," the pro-union crowds were joined by a large contingent of supporters of the governor.

Were the two passionate groups able to keep their disagreements civil?

According to law enforcement officials, the answer to that question was a resounding "yes," as no major incidents and no arrests were reported from those keeping tabs on the massive crowds that gathered Saturday at the capitol.

"On behalf of all the law enforcement agencies that helped keep the peace on the Capitol Square Saturday, a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights," Madison police said in a statement. "(Protesters) conducted themselves with great decorum and civility."

Many who rallied around the Capitol said that it was surprisingly easy for them to co-exist with each other, with some hinting that the marching, finger pointing, and heated exchanges was therapeutic.

"I don't think any minds are being changed out here," suggested pro-Walker rally attendee Michael Jackowski. "I think everybody's got their opinions. We come out here, express ourselves, and get back to work on Monday."

Law enforcement officials from around the state provided support to the Capitol police -- including the Madison Police Department.

With competing opinions threatening to boil over, the MPD added 120 more on-duty officers to help keep the heated words from sparking any violence.

MPD spokesperson Joel Despain said the extra efforts were a success.

"People getting up close to one another and pushing," said Despain of the worst of the day?s events. "We've had officers step between folks, I've done that myself a couple of times, saying, 'let?s just dial it back,' and they did."

One marcher said a civil debate is what she expected and what she got on Saturday.

"I feel tense when I walk by people who have a different opinion from me," said union supporter Patti Thompson. "But I think that's one of the beautiful things about democracy. We can have different opinions and still be civil about it."

Until the bill comes to a final vote, both sides seem to agree on at least one thing: There will be more rallies to come.

And as long as there are rallies, there will be a police presence, as the Madison Police Department has said they will continue to provide support to the Capitol police as long as the rallies continue.

A spokesman said they already have plans in place in case massive crowds continue in the upcoming days.