So here's what I've pieced together from Scout on the phone, the Twitter feed going bonkers, stuff you've all e-mailed to me and actual official accounts from places:
The live feed went dead around 5:30, I think.
The Capitol had been locked down at 4, nobody else was going in and people were going out, into the arms of happy supportive folks ringing the building. Several hundred were still inside listening to speaker after speaker: One would suggest they leave, another implore them to stay, all of them saying "law enforcement is on our side," at which people cheered like the Packers just won the Super Bowl again. Cops were standing around, and it was hard to hear. Nobody knew what was going to happen.
And you could just fucking forget about getting any info from anybody other than this guy with an iPhone who took it upon himself to stream stuff to the world, because he could. National news networks? Asleep at the switch. Protesters were hanging with cops and with the exception of a couple of attention-seeking dicks, everybody was either singing or dancing or taking pictures of each other or chanting or knitting or something. The chants only sounded angry if you hadn't been there, didn't know that the volume was enthusiasm, not rage.
CNN, nowhere to be found. Fox was only interested in if some hackey-sack playing douche got handcuffed shouting about Lenin. MSNBC, nada. Everybody was at the Oscars, after all, and maybe Charlie Sheen would be there.
The live feed went dead and the Internet crapped out, so my landline starts ringing and it's Scout and she can't hear me at all, she's just reporting stuff hoping I can hear it and am taking it down for publication somehow. Things were tense. Things were scary; nobody quite knew what was going down. Mass arrests? Sit-ins? Fights? All the good work of the past two weeks, all the positive energy and decency and warmth, all to be undone in one night? Nobody quite knew what was going to happen.
And then something did.
The cops decided fuck this, we're not grabbing these people and dragging them out. We're not giving the TV people the pictures they want. We're not turning the last two weeks of joy into the usual horror show just because we can.
We're letting these protesters stay, because they're not hurting anything, and the majority of them are being cooperative, and fuck it, basically, Cops for Labor was down there and some firefighters, and do you really want to arrest those guys? Besides, they do happen to be right. It is their house, and if we need to clean it up a bit (the official justification for closing the building) we'll just kind of scoot them around so the custodial crews can sweep behind them and their stuff.
Ever since this started I've been wrong about everything. I keep saying to Scout and to Mr. A and to Jude, I've been wrong about everything. I didn't think the unions had the numbers or frankly the stones to tell Walker to shove it. I didn't think the Democrats had the big brass swinging ones necessary to march across the border. I didn't think the protests could be sustained and grow without some kind of national leadership, and I thought for sure some asshole would ruin everything tonight by waving a copy of the Socialist Worker around and throwing a tantrum.
On every single count, I have been wrong, and I have been overjoyed to be wrong. I want to be wrong forever. I want to be wrong until the Wisconsin 14 come home and, joined by three courageous Republicans, vote this miserable bill down.
Part of the reason what's happening in Wisconsin is so unusual is that this movement is sustaining itself without nonstop pimping by the national press. The Tea Party got flogged 24-7 and had Dick Armey's money backing it. These people aren't hearing their poltical power affirmed every time they turn on the TV. They're reading op-eds from dicks like Krauthammer talking about how terrible they are, and yet they're getting up and going to work and then going out to protest every single day since February 14.
The story's getting out any way it has to, because it's too good not to share.They're sleeping sound in the Capitol tonight. They got the word out via Twitter and cell phones and Facebook and the iPhone stream of some guy I never heard of but now would like to hug, and the last thing Scout told me before hopefully collapsing for some well-deserved sleep is that the protesters were high-fiving the lady driving the floor buffer polishing the statehouse marble.
I'm not sure we have poetry adequate to that. I'm not sure it's been invented yet. But I know by the time I get up tomorrow and check in with friends online, someone will have come up with something.
UPDATE III: Republican State Sen. Dale Schultz will not support the Walker bill! Confirmed by Mother Jones. Now saying unconfirmed, but will keep you posted. Protesters just changed giant sign asking for "3 cou-R-ageous Republicans" to 2. If it's true and two more Republicans join him, it's over.
From Scout: Ha tv crews filming dancing cheers and not arrests!! What a crazy miraculous ride this thing is. #wiunion
Scout's inside but can't get Internet to Tweet or send pix. Just got off the phone with her and here's the sitch:
Cops asked everyone staying inside and planning to be arrested to go up to the first floor, above the ground floor. The VAST majority of people complied, and chanted "peaceful protest" to the rythymn of a hockey cheer, and are behaving respectfully. They're not leaving, but they're not resisting instructions other than that.
Four or five people most Madisonians would recognize from every protest about everything have refused and are sitting on the ground floor basically begging to be arrested. The TV cameras, naturally, are surrounding them. One of these folks gave the finger to protesters upstairs who were chanting "come up here" and "the story's up here."
People on the second floor are predominantly the young people who have been orgnanizin the protests all week and working to keep everything civilized. They're being ignored in favor of angry dreadlocked dudes who Fox News is very interested in.
Scout interviewed the police chief (she didn't say which one and it was hard to hear but I think she meant capitol police) who said they don't want to make arrests. The Capitol has been shut down for an hour now, and nobody wants to turn this into a bad scene.
Basically the atmosphere is tense, but not because the cops are throwing down. Mostly just because nobody knows what's going to happen.
There were 10K viewers on the live stream before it cut out about 20 minutes ago.
More as I get it from her.
Update: Scout talked to a protester who's been there since the beginning and says the people who are trying to get arrested right now only recently joined the movement.
Said cops don't want to make arrests and might not, because they recognize this week has been good for them, too, and will keep things calm as long as they can. Situation less tense now that almost everybody has obeyed police and moved to designated area.