Several thousand Tea Party protestors descended on the Wisconsin state Capitol Saturday with speakers proclaiming, "It's our chance to talk!"
Protestors, legal observers and police all agree that despite worries, "talk" is all they've seen, and that there was no physical violence between pro-union and Tea Party protestors. Police estimate around 2,000 to 4,000 pro-Walker protesters took part in the Tea Party's rally on the King Street side of the capitol around noon Saturday.
Speakers throughout the afternoon emphasized their support for Governor Scott Walker and his Budget Repair Bill. Their message, like his, was: the state is broke and unions need to do their part to help balance the budget.
"What part of 'broke' don't you all understand?" demanded Herman Cain, a Wichita conservative radio show host. "My message to Wisconsin is real simple: this is ground zero for taking back our nation!"
As Tea Party speakers rallied the crowd, pro-union protesters marched a perimeter of the Square, their chants of "Kill the bill" and "Hey hey ho ho Scott Walker has got to go!" mixing with the Tea Party speaker's call for Wisconsin to "withstand the assault of public employees."
Tea Partiers also added their own chants to the mix, shouting "Pass the bill!" and "Go Scott go!" When an Americans for Prosperity speaker admonished the missing Democratic senators, the crowd responded, chanting: "Do your job! Do your job!"
Highlights included a letter from Sarah Palin, who wrote to collective bargaining supporters, "This is the wrong fight at the wrong time," as well as a speech by the Joe the Plumber, who commended Tea Party protestors for "doing your jobs as Americans."
Occasionally, pro-union protestors edged into Tea Party territory, leading to some tension and to loud "Kill the bill!", "Pass the bill!" shouts back and forth.
Nevertheless, police, legal observers and protestors all report that discourse got heated, but remained nonviolent.
"People are talking across the lines," said one officer, "but it's been perfectly peaceful." Gadsdens and American flags flying, the bulk of the Tea Partiers departed several speeches and a few hours later.
As the Tea Party marched out, pro-union protestors stood on either side, chanting, "Kill the bill!" and singing "Na na na-na hey hey goodbye."
One pro-union protestor thanked Tea Party members for "adding their voices" and for remaining peaceful.
"It's everyone's house," he insisted. "Everyone should come and speak their voice."