Despite massive crowds in and outside the Capitol building requiring a beefed up security force, law enforcement agencies said protesters supporting and opposing the proposed budget repair bill have been very cooperative and well behaved.
The Madison Police Department, which is responsible for policing the crowds at the perimeter of Capitol Square, reported no arrests Sunday afternoon. About 120 officers from the MPD have been deployed daily to oversee the protest crowds, which numbered into the tens of thousands on the protest days.
MPD said there have been no clashes between its officers and the protesters.
“There has been good camaraderie between the police officers and the demonstrators,” said Joel DeSpain, MPD spokesperson. “The crowds have been well-behaved, and we hope that this continues on any further protest days.”
Officers from MPD have received comments of gratitude from some of the protesters who wanted to commend the officers on their professionalism despite the overwhelming numbers and passion of the protesters, DeSpain said.
He said he did not expect the good behavior of the demonstrators to change for the worse and encouraged them to continue to conduct themselves peaceably.
The department maintains about 440 officers. Around 120 officers were deployed on Friday alone, DeSpain said.
“Our officers are working regular hours, but many are working overtime, or coming in on their off-days to oversee the protests,” DeSpain said, “However, our officers remain buoyant, and we’re not getting worn down.”
DeSpain said while no officers have broken rank and joined the demonstrators, what the officers did off-duty and in civilian clothing was their own choice.
He added that estimates of crowd numbers were difficult to make because the demonstrators consist of many different groups and people were coming and going throughout the day.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has been responsible for providing security for the senators.
“Sen. Fitzgerald has been receiving daily briefings from the police regarding security in the area,” said his spokesperson, Andrew Welhouse. “He wants to ensure the safety of the senators and the Senate chambers.”