The demonstrations entered their sixth-day on Saturday, with crowds of protesters and counter-protests descending on the state capitol building in Madison, Reuters reported.
Up to 70,000 protesters — including civil servants, teachers, students, and unions — were protesting at Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget.
The bill includes measures to curb unions’ collective bargaining rights and public workers’ pay and benefits.
“People are willing to give up the money, but we’re not willing to give up our rights,” Stacy Smith, a first-grade teacher who was marching with her husband, told The Washington Post.
Other small groups of Republican and Tea Party members gathered to support the governor’s budget proposal. The counter-demonstrations were organized by right-winged groups such as Americans for Prosperity — partly funded by billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch.
“He’s actually trying to do the right thing and something we believe is responsible government,” said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.
Governor Walker says the alternative to the cuts is to lay off more than 10,000 public employees.
Fourteen Democrat lawmakers left the State Senate on Thursday to prevent a quorum on the legislation. Both the State House and Senate are under the Republican control.
The senators are staying across the border in the state of Illinois with no indications of returning soon.
On Saturday, Walker urged them to return, saying that they “should come back to Wisconsin and do their jobs.”