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Menominee Finish Cross-State March With Rally At Capitol Building

Tribal Chairman Turned Away From Governor's Office

Shawn Johnson/WPR

The Menominee Tribe made a last-ditch appeal to Gov. Scott Walker to approve a Kenosha casino on Wednesday as hundreds rallied at the state Capitol in Madison.

Several hundred tribal members marched in the cold from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to the Capitol, finishing a 150-mile trek from northeastern Wisconsin that a handful of Menominee members began several days ago. At a Capitol rally, Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw asked the governor to sit down and talk with the tribe.

“If you learned anything from this experience, Governor Walker, it is that Menominee people are resilient, resourceful, and will never give up,” said Besaw.

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Besaw personally walked to the governor’s office to ask for a meeting after the rally, but he was turned away by a Capitol Police officer. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch had met with Menominee officials at least 15 times.

While it’s no secret that many southeast Wisconsin conservatives support the casino, it’s all but unheard of for a Republican politician to join a protest in the Capitol rotunda that’s critical of Walker. Neverthless, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers were among the members of the tribe to voice support for the casino.

Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, told Menominee members that her constituents were with them on this issue.

“You have conquered every hurdle that was put up before you. You have answered every question that was asked of you. This should have happened. And there’s still time,” said Kerkman.

Joining Kerkman were Reps. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, and Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, along with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.

While there’s still technically time for Governor Walker to change his mind on the casino before Thursday’s deadline, Walker has made it clear he has no intention of doing so.

Besaw said his tribe has “several legal options” that it’s looking at, though he would not elaborate.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a slideshow and information on the lawmakers who participated in the rally.