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Union Rally On Capitol Square Draws Crowd | Politics

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Union Rally On Capitol Square Draws Crowd
Politics

Thousands gathered on a sunny but windy Saturday on the Capitol Square, one year after the state Legislature passed a bill that took many bargaining rights away from most public workers.

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See Images From Union Rally On Capitol Square

Capitol Police estimated the crowd reached at least 25,000 people. Earlier in the day, one of the event's speakers told the crowd that more than 62,000 people were in attendance, but that number did not seem accurate to a handful of reporters who covered the protests last year.

Several attendees at the rally said it amounted to a reunion after last year's protests, but also signaled the need to maintain momentum for a recall election.

"I think it's awesome," said Judy Ferwerda, a Madison teachers' union member. "I think the momentum has definitely built over the last year. I think it took some people a little longer to understand what happened and what took place."

Speakers blasted Walker's agenda, which has included passage of the collective bargaining measure and other controversial proposals, such as the photo identification requirement and redrawing the state's district maps.

I just feel so much better about the things we're doing, the choice we're making in protesting," said Schatze Funk, a Beloit schools employee.

Crowds lined the State Street corner of the Capitol Square, as police blocked off the entire Square to traffic.

While the event took place, Republican volunteers continued their phone bank efforts in Fitchburg. They said Walker's policies should be defended -- and promoted -- in a likely recall campaign.

"They (the pro-union groups) can do whatever they want," volunteer Sarah Hall said. "It comes down to the election."

Volunteers asked local residents via phone whether they supported Walker, and whether they planned to vote in an upcoming election. Most responses were "positive," a volunteer said.

The Wisconsin State Building Trades group also held a candidate forum Saturday at a hotel near the Capitol.

Speakers included Kathleen Falk and Kathleen Vinehout, who plan to run against Walker in the possible recall election. They spoke briefly about their platforms and criticized Walker's leadership.

Unions and other activists criticized the legislation and protested at the Capitol in the weeks before and after it passed in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Democrats want to force Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four GOP senators into recall elections. Democrats said they submitted more than 1 million petition signatures in January.

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