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Wis. police brace for dueling rallies

“We don’t want this to become something that would blemish what has been a positive week,” a police spokesman said

By Sandy Cullen
Wisconsin State Journal

MADISON, Wis. — Madison police said Friday they expect protesters to continue to be civil - if loud - at planned demonstrations for and against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposal today, but are preparing for possible clashes between the opposing political groups.

Police anticipate the crowd at the Capitol Square will exceed Friday’s turnout by anti-Walker protesters, which Police Chief Noble Wray estimated at 35,000 to 40,000. That’s not counting the near-capacity crowd inside the Capitol, which can hold 5,000 to 8,000 people.

“We don’t want this to become something that would blemish what has been a positive week,” said Madison Police spokesman Joel DeSpain. “We believe it’s going to remain peaceful.”

Conservatives who support Walker’s plan to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions are staging a rally at noon today at the Capitol. Pro-union protests began Monday, another is planned for today.

Command staff of Madison Police, Capitol Police, the State Patrol and Dane County Sheriff’s Office met Friday afternoon to plan for today.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, Madison police had made no arrests related to the protests.
But Capitol police arrested nine people Thursday.

“We would just urge people to maintain the decorum and civility they’ve shown all week and not be baited into situations,” DeSpain said. “To have this sort of movement for a sustained period of time is unprecedented in recent history.”

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered Friday evening at the state Capitol try to catch a glimpse of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Copyright 2011 Madison Newspapers, Inc.