Wisconsin Protests

Russ Feingold may no longer be in elected office, but he can still excite crowds of labor protesters who have rallied at the state's capitol for days with virtually no appearances by prominent politicians. And he wants other public figures who say they support workers to come out and join him.

With momentum and attention building, labor organizers anticipated that Friday's turnout would be the highest yet. By the time Feingold arrived around 11:00 a.m., thousands of people already swarmed the capitol, with many back from protesting earlier in the week or having even spent the night in the building's rotunda. The balconies looking down into the rotunda were nearly impassible, and crowds marched around outside readying for the noon rally.

Feingold went to the local fire station and brought its firefighters with him to the capitol. When he arrived, protesters cheered and some even broke into chants of "Feingold for Governor."

"I just feel enormous pride in the people of Wisconsin who are coming together -- whether union or anti-union -- for the rights of workers," Feingold said in an interview with The Huffington Post. "This state is one of the originators of many of the workers' rights and protections on child labor, unemployment compensation, and almost all kinds of workers' rights. The fact that our governor is trying to destroy those rights is something worth fighting against. And I, of course, as a citizen of Wisconsin, somebody who knows the state very well, was proud to just show up and keep my support."

While President Obama has criticized Walker's proposal, which would strip away the collective bargaining rights of public employees, he has yet to make an appearance. Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, the state's one remaining Democratic U.S. senator, has put out a cursory statement on the protests but has not taken a visible role. The senator has received more than 450 phone calls and 1,900 emails regarding the protests and Walker's proposal, Dawn Schueller reported. Kohl is traveling to Wisconsin from Washington, D.C. on Friday, although she didn't yet have details on his schedule for next week.

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