Thousands of people descended on the state Capitol in February and March, crowding the streets and filling the rotunda in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill. But in the past six months those crowds have given way to a small but dedicated band of 20-something protesters who routinely disrupt meetings, harangue individual Republican lawmakers, stage publicity stunts and take video of nearly everything they do.This is the problem with prolonged protests. There have been waves of participants, and the personnel evolves over time. If you make a big deal about continuing the protests day after day, week after week, as was done back in February and March when the crowds were gigantic, some people are going to fixate on the idea of never stopping. As the crowd thins, who will remain and why? What will they say to each other to harden their resolve? It becomes a cult, with some strange ideas about how to act.
The group -- led unofficially by about a half-dozen "regulars" -- has exasperated Capitol law enforcement and Republican lawmakers. But they also have frustrated Democratic lawmakers, interrupting their speeches and getting into shouting matches with them during committee meetings....
"But the clergy were critical of MLK, too," [said Jeremy Ryan.] "Not that I'm comparing myself to MLK, but I think it fits in this case. Some Democrats can't see far down the road."
[Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau] is a frequent target of protesters. They follow him during parades and videotape him in an effort to catch something controversial. Once, a protester even chased him into a bank, blasting a horn in Fitzgerald's ear the whole way.I know exactly what he is talking about.
"I think they're trying to get a lawmaker to take a swing at them," he said. "And it's really hard to not take a swing at someone when they're blowing a horn in your ear."