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Protesters pack the Wisconsin State Capitol in opposition to the elimination of collective bargaining for state workers

Andy Manis / AP

Protestors of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers pack the rotunda at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Feb. 17, 2011.

AP reports:
MADISON, Wis. — Police officers were dispatched Thursday to find Wisconsin state lawmakers who had apparently boycotted a vote on a sweeping bill that would strip most government workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The lawmakers, all Democrats in the state Senate, did not show up when they were ordered to attend a midday vote on the legislation.

The proposal has been the focus of intense protests at the Statehouse for three days. As Republicans tried to begin Senate business Thursday, observers in the gallery screamed "Freedom! Democracy! Unions!"

Andy Manis / AP

Wisconsin Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, talks to the media at the State Capitol in response to 14 Democratic senators who boycotted a session blocking a vote on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers.

Msnbc.com story: Democrats leave state to foil Wisconsin anti-union vote