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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily
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Wisconsin Capitol protests massive for second consecutive Saturday
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MPD estimate a total of 60,000 to 100,000 demonstrators in Madison today is 'plausible.'
MPD estimate a total of 60,000 to 100,000 demonstrators in Madison today is 'plausible.'
Credit:Joe Tarr

Tens of thousands of people packed the Capitol Square and State Street on Saturday afternoon, their numbers rivaling and perhaps even topping even last week's massive crowds. The scene was festive and overwhelmingly pro-union and anti-Walker, with scant sign of any counter-protesters.

Mary Mann, a teacher from a school near Milwaukee, came with a group of co-workers to protest the bill. It's the fourth time they've been to the protest since it started two weeks ago. Mann carried a sign that read: "I'm a born and bred agent provocateur from Wisconsin." She was fighting the notion -- encouraged by Gov. Scott Walker and others on the right -- that the protesters are largely from out of state.

The teachers -- they didn't want to name the school where they work, but did offer to show their Wisconsin IDs -- said they've been told they might be given a contract that lists their salary as "to be determined."

"How do you sign a contract that says 'pay to be determined'?" Mann asked.

Mann said she thinks the absence of counter-protesters is because "they know where he stands and he's not going to compromise."

Unlike last week, there were no Tea Party demonstrators. One lonely man was spotted carrying a pro-Walker sign, but he grumpily shrugged off a reporter's questions.

Joel DeSpain, a spokesman for the Madison Police Department, said although precise estimates are difficult to make, "the crowd was certainly in excess of the crowd of last week." He added that 60,000 to 100,000 was "plausible" not including the number inside the Capitol. Either number would be remarkable because of snow and temperatures in the teens, compared to last weekend's more spring-like weather.

"I don't want to sell the effort short and I don't want to oversell it," DeSpain said. He added that there hasn't been a single protester arrested by Madison police since it began two weeks ago. That includes today, to the best of his knowledge.

"We're just very pleased with the way people behaved," DeSpain said. "The chief said we wanted to make the Square safe for democracy and that happened again today."

Access inside the Capitol was much more restricted, with long lines forming outside as police limited the entrance. But the streets around the Capitol were thick with people and difficult to move across.

The State Street corner of the Square was especially packed, as musicians, including Peter Yarrow, played for the crowd.

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin -- also a current candidate for that job -- was spotted among the protesters. A famous Vietnam War-era activist, he was asked, "Is this bigger than the '60s?"

"Yes," Soglin responded. "It was bigger within 48 hours. No question about it."

Kristian Knutsen contributed to this report.

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