Nearly two weeks into a political standoff, tens of thousands rallied in Madison and in dozens of cities around the nation to oppose a bill that would severely limit collective bargaining rights for most Wisconsin public employees.

Joel DeSpain, spokesman for the Madison Police Department, said the rally — in steadily falling snow — drew between 70,000 and 100,000 and may have been the largest protest in Madison since the Vietnam War.

"I've been around Madison for 50 years, and I have not seen anything like it so far," he said.

A Republican-backed bill containing the anti-union provisions prompted 14 Democratic state senators to flee Wisconsin, denying the Republican majority a quorum to pass it. The Republican-dominated state Assembly passed a version of the bill early Friday, but the Senate remains stymied until Democrats return.

Despite exhortations by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Democrats were still hiding in Illinois as supporters rallied across the nation. The liberal group said it organized rallies in 66 cities, including every state capital.

"From what we can tell, it was kind of an amazing wave of energy around the country," said Executive Director Justin Ruben.

Tea Party groups organized counter protests in some cities, including Jefferson City, Mo., and Raleigh, N.C. In Madison, however, only a handful of scattered counter-protesters showed up.
Full story at the LA Times