The all-night protest parties are ending at the Wisconsin Capitol.
Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs announced via a press release (PDF) that the building will return to normal business hours beginning on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 4 p.m. That means an end to the hordes of families, musicians, students, union workers and others who've been sleeping at the Capitol to protest Gov. Scott Walker's union-curbing "budget repair bill."
Capitol police have reportedly come to an agreement with protesters, who will remove their items from the building. Today, all large items are being cleared out of the Rotunda and hallways, including mattresses, folding tables and chairs, cooking appliances, coolers and boxes. Beginning Saturday, people will not be allowed to carry blankets or sleeping bags into the building. On Sunday at 4 p.m., the building will close for cleaning, and normal business hours will return on Monday (weekdays 8 a.m.-6 p.m., weekends 8 a.m.-4 p.m.).
"We are closing the Capitol for a short period of time for public health reasons, as well as for general building maintenance," Tubbs said.
The Capitol walls have filled with signs over the past few days, and protesters can take the ones they want to keep. Anything left in the building after 4 p.m. on Sunday will go to lost and found and can be claimed until March 4.
The Capitol has turned into a messy communal space in recent days -- not only the peaceful protesters with their signs and sleeping bags, but volunteers serving food and caring for the sick. It's been a circus-like atmosphere of drumming and chanting, with laptops, blankets, musical instruments and other items pushed up against the walls. This weekend, even police officers will be joining the protesters for the sleepover.
"Everyone agrees that our State Capitol is a source of pride for our state and that we should take a break to take care of the building," Tubbs said. "People have been very respectful of the building, law enforcement and staff to this point. Since the beginning, protest organizers have worked very cooperatively with law enforcement."