By DAVID A. LIEB
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Dozens of rounds of live rifle ammunition were found Thursday scattered around the grounds of the Wisconsin Capitol, where large crowds of people have been protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to rescind nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions.
State attorneys revealed the ammunition discovery during a hearing in Dane County Circuit Court, where unions were asking a judge to lift restricted-access rules that have been in place since Sunday and swing open the doors to the public. State attorneys cited the ammunition while suggesting the building should instead be closed for a security sweep.
State officials said about 100 demonstrators remained in the building Thursday, still ignoring what was a 4 p.m. Sunday deadline for people to depart so the building so it could be cleaned. Since then, police adopted a policy allowing in new protesters only when an equal number leave the building.
University of Wisconsin Police Chief Susan Riseling testified that 41 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition were found Thursday morning scattered at several locations outside the Capitol. No guns were found with them.
“I don’t like to see live ammunition outside when I have significant crowds,” Riseling said. “You can’t do much with live ammunition without the gun, but the presence of it doesn’t thrill me.”
Riseling said police were conducting a sweep of the bushes and grassy areas in search of any more ammunition. She noted that ammunition often comes in 50-round boxes, meaning an additional nine rounds may be missing if the ammunition all came from the same source.
Assistant Attorney General Steven Means, who is representing the Department of Administration in the lawsuit, asked Circuit Judge John Albert to order the building closed for security purposes. The judge made no immediate ruling.
Union attorney Peggy Lautenschlager said in court that the request to close the Capitol was an overreaction to the discovery of the ammunition.
“For all we know somebody planted them there — we don’t know if it was a protester,” she said.
Protesters have taped hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of homemade posters and signs on the walls of the Capitol, many of them mocking Walker and objecting to his proposals.
Wisconsin Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told the court that it would take $500,000 to supervise the removal of the tape, $6 milion to restore the damage to the interior of the building and an additional $1 million to restore damage done from items taped to the exterior.