Protesters who have descended on Wisconsin's Capitol in hopes of halting a Republican effort to end a half-century of collective bargaining rights for public workers steeled themselves for a long fight, buoyed by Democrats' decision to flee to avoid the measure's near-certain passage.
With Democrats saying they won't return before Saturday, it was unclear when the Senate would be able to begin debating the measure meant to ease the state's budget woes. Democrats who disappeared Thursday at first kept their whereabouts secret, then started to emerge to give interviews and fan the protests.
Tens of thousands of students, teachers and prison guards have turned out at the Capitol this week to protest, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the building's hallways, sitting cross-legged across the floor and making it difficult to move from room to room. Some have brought along sleeping backs and stayed through the night.
Neil Graupner, a 19-year-old technical college student from Madison, said he was planning to stay until the matter is settled.
"The fact that the Democrats have walked out, it shows they're listening to us," he said late Thursday as he prepared to spend the night at the Capitol.