On Monday morning, the Capitol was supposed to resume normal business hours, opening to the public at 8 a.m. But as week three of the protest began, protesters found themselves locked out of the building.
In an early morning press release (PDF), Jodi Jenson, administrative executive assistant with the Department of Administration, said: "Visitors will continue to have access to the State Capitol but traffic through the building will be reduced to allow for a thorough cleaning and then to ensure the safety and security of everyone attending the governor's speech on Tuesday night." The statement goes on to list multiple rules regarding access to the Capitol, in place until further notice.
Two hours later, DOA issued another release (PDF) saying "No additional protesters will be allowed into the building until this situation is resolved. Once it is, law enforcement will continue to implement the procedures that were announced this morning. Under those procedures, protesters will be allowed into the building, but crowd size will be adjusted to accommodate the cleaning crews, the preparation for the Tuesday's joint legislative session and the number of protesters who remained in the building overnight."
Reaction among protesters -- hundreds of whom defied an order to leave the building Sunday night and were eventually told by police they could stay -- was negative.
A group recently formed by Jeremy Ryan, Defending Wisconsin (not to be confused with Defend Wisconsin, which is affiliated with the Teaching Assistants Association of UW-Madison) announced it had filed a lawsuit in US District Court against the closing.
The state Assembly minority leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) condemned the closing in a statement (PDF): "Denying people access to the Peoples House of Democracy and their elected representatives is not acceptable, especially when it was not communicated to offices in the building and to the public or media in advance and there have been no incidents to date. Politicians may not always enjoy hearing what the citizens of this state have to say, but it is wrong to block elected officials from their constituents. There are a number of scheduled meetings in the building today and the public has a right to attend them and visit their legislators. This silencing of public input is an unacceptable and disturbing trend during these budget debates."
State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) was also displeased. In a statement (PDF), he wrote: "I am disappointed in Governor Walker's decision to block the public's access to their State Capitol. I want to assure my constituents that I will not allow Governor Walker to limit your access to my office. If any constituents have legitimate business with my office and are being locked out of the Capitol, a representative from my office will be available at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd entrance to the Capitol at the top of every half hour to escort constituents into the building."
A report on Twitter claimed there were about 50 protesters left inside Monday morning. Outside, hundreds more people chanted at the King and State Street entrances, looking to get in.
The closing of the Capitol comes as Gov. Scott Walker readies to make his budget address to a joint session of the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday.