Wisconsin judge orders Capitol open to public
MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) – Wisconsin officials said Tuesday they would not ease entry restrictions at the Capitol Building in Madison after a judge ordered there be public access during business hours.
The Capitol building has been the focus of two weeks of protests by labor unions and their supporters opposed to Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curtail union power.
The state agency that operates the Capitol building said it was already in compliance with the judge’s order.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moeser ordered state officials on Tuesday to open access. Moeser’s order was granted without a hearing and specified it would stand until the trial court is able to schedule a hearing on the matter.
A hearing on the restraining order sought by the Wisconsin State Employees Union is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Access to the building was tightened earlier this week and remained restricted at midday on Tuesday with law enforcement officers escorting people to hearing rooms and to other offices.
Representative Peter Barca, the minority leader of Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly, said authorities needed to open access to the building in an “orderly process.”
“I do think they need to do this immediately,” Barca said.
Joe Thoennes, 25, who has camped in the capitol building for 10 consecutive nights, said access still appeared restricted on Tuesday morning after the order was issued and he planned to stay put in the rotunda.
“I’ve been wanting to get out so I can have a shower,” Thoennes said. “But I’m not planning on going anywhere for now.”
(Reporting by David Bailey and Stefanie Carano in Madison and James Kelleher in Chicago; Editing by Greg McCune)