I'm sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Madison, taking a momentary break from the incredible volume (both sound and bodies) of the protests against the governor's bill to bust public employee unions.
I've just come from the capitol building, where a massive rally - I'm guessing the biggest yet this week - was taking shape. Inside the dome itself, thousands packed into the building to voice their displeasure with the bill, which the state senate was this morning attempting to vote on. Amazingly, happily, we got word that all of the Democratic senators (and possibly two Republicans) walked out and have now left the city entirely to avoid voting on the measure. Republicans currently hold a majority in the Legislature and can pretty much rubber stamp whatever Walker wants, so this action was entirely necessary.
Firefighters and cops - both groups exempted from Walker's union busting plans - have joined the protesters for the last several days, and this morning when their contingent marched into the throngs inside the capitol rotunda they got a heroes welcome. I've rarely been in the middle of such an incredible, deafening din as I was today. The sound was almost overwhelming.
Masses of students - grade school through college - have joined their teachers on the streets to demand the bill be defeated. I saw a girl holding a sign that read, "Tell FOX News that I know exactly why I'm here!"
People are upbeat, determined. There's some hope now that our saga has reached national and even some international media. President Obama released a statement calling Walker's bill "union busting." And now the Dems have walked out, further eroding the Republican push to rush this measure through as quickly as possible.
The people of Wisconsin are standing up and making themselves heard. I couldn't be prouder to be a citizen of this state than I am today.
UPDATE TO ADD:
Video taken by me in the crush of bodies in the capitol rotunda earlier today, as firefighters marched through to show their support. Gives you a decent idea of the size and intensity of the crowd: