Wajid Jenkins says he protested at Wisconsin's state Capitol off and on between Tuesday, Feb. 15 to Friday, Feb. 18. Since then, he's been here continuously, day and night.
I've met Jenkins before; he's a Madison activist who previously put his energy into saving a community garden. "I'm here," he says, "in solidarity with workers and families and disabled Wisconsinites" -- all of whom stand to lose if Gov. Scott Walker wins his budget showdown.
It's about 5 p.m., and the Rotunda appears to have about 100 people in and around it. There is one person on the first floor, who police are letting be, even though protesters have been asked to stay on the ground floor.
Jenkins did not come here as part of a group, but he's part of one now. "We have found an affinity," he tells me. "This has brought all sorts of people out. We're making connections and networks that are going to last decades. This is an organizing hot spot."
But Jenkins thinks that may be slowly coming to an end. He says the operative rule being enforced by law enforcement, who at this moment seem to outnumber the protesters, is "one out, one in." That is, every time a protester leaves, one of the people standing outside in the cold is supposed to be allowed in.
According to Jenkins, this already goofy system is working to the detriment of those who hope to maintain a presence inside. The cops are not letting in people to replace those who say that they were there the previous night.
"It's a war of attrition, and it's all behind the scenes," he charges.
Tessa Wyllie de Echeverria backs him up. She's been monitoring the one door, on the Capitol east side through which people are now being allowed to enter or depart.
"They say they have a one-out, one-in policy, but we haven't seen that," says Wyllie de Echeverria (thank heavens for cut and paste), who has been at the Capitol continuously since Feb. 15, except for one night. "We're down eight people in the last two hours," she said at 5:30 p.m.
I walk out the Capitol's east entrance. There is a young man standing there holding a sign telling people who are leaving to be sure to tell police they were here overnight. The corridor is packed with law enforcement -- dozens of officers from departments all over the state.
The officers are asking people as they leave if they were here last night.
I walk through the thicket of police, holding up my press credentials, being waved through. As always, the police are friendly. As I walk out the door in the cold and the crowd of people locked out of the building, one of the cops rushes to try to catch the door before it shuts.
He misses, barely. Even he seems unable to get in. The building is in lockdown. I hear a lone chant of "Shame!" I wish I'd had said it myself.