MADISON (WITI/AP) — Senate Republicans on Tuesday evening, February 24th cut a public hearing on Right-to-Work legislation short, sending dozens of people who had been waiting hours to speak into a rage. FOX6 News spotted one man being led away in handcuffs as Capitol Police shut the building down shortly after 8:00 p.m.
The Senate Labor Committee began the hearing at 10:00 a.m. The committee's chairman, Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater), had planned to end testimony at 7:00 p.m. Nass ended the hearing around 6:20 p.m., saying union members had threatened to disrupt the proceeding at 7:00 p.m. Union leaders later said they planned only to complain about ending the hearing at 7:00 p.m.
Dozens of people who had been waiting to speak leapt to their feet, shouting profanities. The committee voted in the midst of the din. Nass' office said later the vote was 3-1 in favor, clearing the way for a full Senate vote on Wednesday.
Protesters, for the most part, left peacefully when the Capitol closed around 8:00 p.m. When that time came, the 30 or so that remained inside left the building, singing "Solidarity Forever." Several of those demonstrating said they don't believe there was any real threat to the proceedings that would force the meeting to end early. Included in that sentiment is the spokeswoman for Voces de la Frontera, whose organization was mentioned by Republicans as part of that threat.
"I think it was really shocking, but in some ways to be expected that the chair of the committee would use a really bogus claim that Voces and SEIU represented any kind of threat to the proceedings. There was absolutely no disruption and to me it`s actually very consistent with this hearing in this first place. This whole thing is being fast-tracked. It`s totally anti-Democratic," Christine Neumann-Ortiz said.
"I was actually waiting for my name to be called so I could come in and say what I needed to say about the bad bill. I don`t know where the threat is coming from but basically it was an excuse to clear the room," Mary Jo Walters said.
After the Capitol closed, only a couple protesters remained in the Capitol Rotunda. One of those demonstrators was ultimately arrested.
Demonstrators say they'll be back at the Capitol Wednesday as the full Senate debates the bill. Some say they know Republicans have the votes needed to pass Right-to-Work, but still, they want to make sure their objection is heard.
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