Wis. Capitol to Close Sunday Afternoon

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

MADISON, Wis. -- Protesters will have to clear out of the state Capitol by the end of the weekend so custodians can clean the building after days of nonstop demonstrations, officials announced Friday.

It was unclear whether the move could spell the end of demonstrations that have consumed the Capitol for nearly two weeks. Protesters said they would not give up. Some said they would not leave the building.

"Until this issue is resolved, we'll remain here," said Madison resident Amanda Postel. "You know what they say, 'The longer the fight, the longer your chapter in the history books."'

The state Department of Administration issued a statement Friday saying the building will close at 4 p.m. Sunday and protesters must be out by then. The building will reopen on Monday at 8 a.m.

Capitol Police will allow protesters to sleep on the building's ground and first floors overnight Saturday into Sunday, but have asked that they not bring any blankets or sleeping bags into the building beginning Saturday.

Tens of thousands of protesters have converged on the Capitol to complain about Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.

The demonstrations have stretched on for 11 days as of Friday. The protesters have pasted signs all over the building's walls, set up a day care center outside lawmakers' offices and held ear-splitting drum circles all day long. Dozens of them have taken to sleeping overnight in makeshift camps in the building's rotunda and corridors.

Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said in a statement officials have to close the Capitol for health reasons.

"Everyone agrees that our State Capitol is a source of pride for our state and that we should take a break to take care of the building," Tubbs said.

Harriet Rowan, a 22-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison senior, one of the protest organizers, said she had not heard about the closing. She called it "sad" and said she can't believe people will be willing to leave.

"I'm pretty sure there will be people unwilling to leave the building on their own two feet," Rowan said.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association, a union representing 11,000 law enforcement officials from across the state, released a statement Friday asking Walker to keep the building open for protesters. WPPA executive director Jim Palmer called on officers from across the state to sleep among the protesters Friday night.

"Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Governor Walker's attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin's devoted public employees is wrong," Palmer said.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also condemned the new restrictions. Barca said the protests have been "completely peaceful" and the government should be flexible with people during the demonstration.

"They will have a lot of explaining to do if they start denying people those rights," he said. "There's the rules of the building and then there's tradition."

Members of the UW Teaching Assistants Association sent out a tweet shortly after 3 p.m. asking people to help clear out the hearing room they've been operating in for the last 11 days. The group will move operations to Democratic Party of Wisconsin offices off the Capitol for the remainder of the protests.

Rowan said she does not know what form the protests will take after Sunday, but said, "I know it's not going to be the end of this movement, no matter what happens."