Protesters Leave Wisconsin Capitol
Judge rules against overnight stays but in favor of restoring public access
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2011 11:23 PM CST
Protesters celebrate before the leaving the Capitol after a judge ordered the Department of Administration to open the Capitol to normal business hours starting Monday, March 7, 2011.   (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
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(Newser) – The final group of pro-union protesters left Wisconsin's Capitol peacefully late Thursday night, after a judge ordered their removal. The judge ruled that activists could not stay in the building overnight, but he ordered authorities to end the lockdown on the building and restore normal access by Monday morning, leading some activists to hail the decision as a victory, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Protesters opposed to Gov. Scott Walker budget plans had occupied the building for more than two weeks.

The judge noted the historic nature of the protests. "Plaintiffs as a group need to be commended for their conduct and during the activity that I think I can conclude constituted the largest expression of free speech in addressing the government in the history of our state," he said. The protesters, many of them carrying blankets and sleeping bags, sang Solidarity Forever before leaving the building, promising to return today.