MADISON (AP) - Hundreds of people who regularly protest at Wisconsin's Capitol shouted and booed Wednesday night as they listened to Gov. Scott Walker's State of the State speech from loudspeakers inside the rotunda.
The chanting and whistling from the protesters was so loud that it drowned the actual speech being piped into the rotunda. Inside the Assembly chambers, the group's non-stop chanting could be heard in the background, though Walker never paused to acknowledge them.
At least five protesters in the Assembly chambers interrupted the governor. The sudden bursts from the upstairs public gallery included one female protester who yelled, "Liar!" when the governor said he respected Wisconsin residents. And another protester shouted about vulnerable children when Walker talked about education initiatives. Police quickly escorted them out.
Chris Reeder, an organizer with the Solidarity Sing Along group, said he was pleased with the turnout, which totaled a few hundred people. The group has protested almost daily at the Capitol, and Wednesday marked their 271st appearance since last March. The protesters are unhappy with the Republican governor's handling of the state budget and job creation.
"Obviously, I couldn't hear the speech, but we made sure they heard us," he said.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said the disruptions inside the chamber were not surprising.
"It illustrates the sharp divide the governor's policies have created in the state," he said.
Republican Rep. Robin Vos, co-chairman of the Legislature's budget committee, said he was impressed with Walker's emphasis in the speech on regaining civility in the state.
"Gov. Walker laid the exact right tone for where we're going as Wisconsin," Vos said.
Sen. Alberta Darling, the other Republican budget committee co-chair, said she wasn't surprised with the speech interruptions. She stood by Walker.
"I am really ready for Wisconsin to come together," she said.
Special guests on the chambers' first floor included members of the Supreme Court, Adjutant Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar and members of the 724th Engineer Battalion.
It was a stark contrast to Walker's first State of the State speech last year, when he joked about the Green Bay Packers' appearance in the Super Bowl. Walker's speech Wednesday night went on less than five minutes before the first interruption.
The yelling seemed to escalate as Walker neared the end of his speech, which emphasized residents' ability to overcome obstacles. He then quickly exited the room.
A heightened security presence included more than a dozen police patrolling the building, and at least one officer stationed at every entrance. They continued to patrol the floors as an automated message told protesters to exit the building.
In the rotunda, protesters held homemade signs and yelled slogans that have been heard since Walker began his successful push to curtail public sector union rights.
Walker's speech comes about a week after more than 1 million signatures were submitted to recall him from office. A banner with the word "RECALL" in bright red was pinned onto the second floor early on.
AP writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.
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