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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 39.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Wisconsin Capitol lockdown spawns 'Walkerville' near King Street entrance
About 50 people joined the 'Walkerville' encampment on Tuesday night.
Credit:Kristian Knutsen

Jenni Dye doesn't enjoy sleeping outside on concrete on bitter cold March nights.

But, the Madison attorney says, these days call for such measures. Dye has been protesting Gov. Scott Walker's agenda almost every day since the protests began. She has a personal stake in the issue -- her dad is a teacher and she opposes Walker's attempt to bust public unions.

When the governor locked the Capitol down to the public, she saw it as an important way to make her voice heard.

"I hope the Capitol reopens and there's not a need to continue to do it," says Dye, who has spent two nights sleeping out. "We can make our voices heard during the daytime if we're given access to the Capitol."

Since last Sunday, the Walker administration has increasingly restricted access to the Capitol, making protests more and more difficult. But some protesters have refused to cave in.

The harsh temperatures haven't made it easy. For the last several nights, people have been gathering outside the Capitol near the King Street entrance, where they chant and take turns talking through a bullhorn.

One speaker told the crowd that while not everyone can be a charismatic leader, everyone could do something simple to play a part in the struggle, such as taking part in a boycott or a protest.

Melinda Van Slyke of Spring Green spoke about how she was talking to a friend in Guatemala early in the week and the friend wanted to know if it was true that citizens had been locked out of the Capitol. "She was having a difficult time understanding how something constitutionally offered would not be allowed," Van Slyke said.

Van Slyke was not planning on spending the night, but she said the lockout of the Capitol is "shameful. It's undemocratic."

A couple dozen camped out on Monday night, and more than 50 people were present Tuesday night. Videos of that second night of the encampment can be viewed here and here. And by early Wednesday evening, nearly that many had already set up camp for the night.

There's usually food provided, and blankets, mats and sleeping bags are piled against the building for anyone to use. A tarp is laid on the ground to keep sleepers dry. But the protesters have been denied the use of tents.

Tim Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Administration, says that there's a long-term policy of not allowing structures to be erected on the Capitol grounds. "It's a longstanding rule, the source of which I'm not aware of."

Donovan says that access inside the Capitol is the same as it has been all week. People are allowed into the Capitol if they have an appointment with a legislator. They can attend hearings or Supreme Court sessions in the building without an invitation, but only up to the capacity of the room. "If a hearing room allows 103 people, 103 people will be admitted," he says. "Not 104. Not 110."

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