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Protesters disrupt Chicago speech by Gov. Scott Walker

WisconsGov. Scott Walker  | AP file photo

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker | AP file photo

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Updated: December 6, 2011 8:08AM

Sixty protesters crashed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s speech at the Union League Club Thursday to offer an alternate picture of how well his controversial budget cuts and union restrictions are working in the Dairy State.

“Nearly every week I’ve got a new opening up in Kenosha County, in Pleasant Prairie Industrial Park and places like that,” Walker told the business owners and civic leaders. “Any of you looking to grow and expand your business and get to a safer state, come on up.”

But while Walker said his strict tonic of cuts has helped catapult Wisconsin from No. 41 to No. 24 on national rankings of business-friendly states, the Stand Up, Chicago! protesters said Walker’s policies are harming Wisconsin residents.

Walker “has wreaked havoc on the lives of working families,” the protesters shouted in unison about five minutes into Walker’s speech. “It’s ironic that we give Gov. Walker free rein to say what he wants while the mayor has ordered the arrest of over 300 people in Occupy Chicago, who have simply tried to express the rights of freedom and assembly.”

The protesters took up about six tables and shouted loud, in unison, frustrating efforts of moderator Chris Robling to quiet them, though he did get attendees to applaud loud enough to drown them out for a minute.

They finally filed out chanting, “Union busting — it’s disgusting” and “We are the 99 percent.”

Robling said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what free expression is all about and sometimes it’s pretty messy.” Fanning through questions submitted by members of the audience, Robling quipped, “Alright, I’m going to take out a few of the questions from those tables.”

The protesters had to pay $20 for each of their reservations, so the club made $1,200 off them.

The remaining guests gave Walker a standing ovation and he resumed his speech.

When union members from around the Midwest descended on Madison to protest Walker’s crackdown on unions, Walker called them out-of-towners.

“If I needed to make the case earlier this year that a lot of the people in the state capital were not really from Wisconsin — point made,” Walker said to applause. Walker said he would welcome some of the protesters back to Wisconsin as tourists as they join their union brethren in the recall effort to try to oust Walker from office – a fight he thinks he’ll win.

During the expected recall effort, Walker said he would contrast with what he called Wisconsin’s strong economy as a result of cutting spending with Illinois’ cash-strapped economy where tax hikes dwarfed spending cuts.

“With all due respect to people of Illinois, I’m going to use Illinois as a good example [of bad economics],” Walker said.

“I found it amusing to be referenced in the same vein as Rahm Emanuel, the mayor, but, really, some of the reforms he’s trying to do here echo the things we try to do in the state of Wisconsin and I give him credit for that despite the fact I’m a Republican and he’s a Democrat,” Walker said. “He understands you can’t look this in the face and not make major changes.”

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