The tense times over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget measures have evolved into to tent time for some in the state capital, in a protest village that organizers are calling “Walkerville.” A Madison city commission approved plans for a tent city in which folks who oppose the Republican governor’s budget measures will camp along downtown streets across from the state Capitol starting tonight.
|Protesters who overtook the Wisconsin State Capitol in February and March are moving to the streets. (Getty Images)
Members of the organizing group We Are Wisconsin are happy they got the go-ahead for the novel, if throwback, form of demonstration, but some businesses downtown are chafed, according to the Wisconsin State Journal
"If a bike-riding event is bad for business, then a tent city is, too," John Taylor, owner of an art gallery on North Carroll Street, wrote in an email to the city, the State Journal reported.
Although Taylor acknowledged that business might pick up for some street vendors, he doesn’t hold much hope that protesters will flock to his store, where his wares include antiquities, notable books, and rare maps. And one of his employees told the State Journal that having protesters camped outside will worsen the problem with homeless people loitering in the front of the store.
Approval of the tent city came during the Street Use Staff Commission meeting Friday, when County Supervisor Annalise Eicher, City Councilwoman Lisa Subeck, and Mayor Paul Soglin's office OK’d it.
"It's a great opportunity for the city of Madison to help with the idea of open government," the State Journal quoted Eicher as saying, especially because access to the state Capitol has been restricted since mass protests of Walker’s budget, including curtailing public employees’ collective-bargaining rights, in February and March.
The city permit for Walkerville requires most sleeping tents to be removed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday and from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. However, sleeping tents at three sites will be allowed to stay up during the day. First-aid, food, and information tents also may remain standing during daylight hours.
The organizers agreed to a slew of provisions to keep the tents as far as possible from buildings and buses, keep the area clean, and ensure safe passage for pedestrians and shoppers. The inspiration for such rules undoubtedly was the unofficial Walkerville that cropped up around the Capitol in February and March and had the appearance of a shantytown.
The city’s police and fire departments are authorized to pull the plug on the village at any time if they see fit, the State Journal reported.
The final hurdle for organizers is a county health department inspection to obtain a $378 special event campground permit before Walkerville’s kick-off rally at 7 p.m. today.
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