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65 posts categorized "Social Action"

August 06, 2012

Protestors Block Crane Path at Lowell Wind Project (VIDEO)

Photo17

Updated below — Six protesters arrested for blocking road.

After gathering at 5 a.m. this morning, a group of 20 or so "mountain occupiers" hiked to the ridge of Lowell Mountain to block construction of wind turbines. Their plan: Camp out in the crane path — a crucial thoroughfare for construction at Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project — until "the situation is resolved," according to a press release put out by the demonstrators.

Protesters have formed a human blockade, where occupiers are singing, chanting and brandishing signs that read "Stop Destroying Vermont" and "Shumlin Lies." An additional 25 protestors have joined the barricade since early this morning, bringing their numbers to around 45. 

The protesters made the march to the ridge line by way of Don and Shirley Nelson's adjoining property, and were on site to block construction vehicles at 7 a.m.. They're making their stand on the same piece of land where, in December, six protesters and one reporter were arrested for trespassing. The ownership of the land is currently in dispute between the Nelsons and GMP.

Craftsbury Commons resident Steve Wright, an outspoken opponent of the wind development, is stationed near the access point on Route 100. Wright told Seven Days by phone that the drumming and chanting from the ridge line can be heard in the valley east of the project. While Wright hiked the ridge line for 25 years, his "aging legs" didn't let him join the protest this morning.

"This is not about stopping the project," Wright says, acknowledging that construction will inevitably continue at the 21-turbine wind development. "This is about stopping other projects that are as ill- thought-out and land abusive — projects that really don’t do anything for climate change action."

Continue reading "Protestors Block Crane Path at Lowell Wind Project (VIDEO)" »

August 01, 2012

'Occupy' Photographer Gets Close-Up of Burlington Pepper-Spraying

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 003_1Vermont photographer Dylan Kelley was in the middle of the action Sunday when police dressed in riot gear fired pepper spray and "stingball pellets" into a crowd of protesters at the conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. His pictures are some of the most arresting images to emerge from a melee that veteran demonstrators say is unprecedented in Burlington history.

Kelley posted the photos on his blog and the online news journal Vermont Commons, where he is a board member. They appear on Blurt by permission.

Kelley, a 25-year-old student at Burlington College, has been documenting the Occupy movement with his lens for months. He’s travelled all over the country photographing occupiers in New Hampshire, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Oakland.

“I’ve photographed all this stuff in various places where headlines are emerging,” says Kelley. “But to come back and be hanging out on College Street and see this go down, it feels like another thing entirely.”

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 012_1

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 006_1

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading "'Occupy' Photographer Gets Close-Up of Burlington Pepper-Spraying" »

July 26, 2012

Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington

Innu photo #1More than a dozen protesters from Quebec's Innu First Nation are due to arrive in Vermont this weekend to protest the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, being held in Burlington. They are protesting against the construction of a new hydroelectric dam on the Romaine River by Hydro-Québec, which they say would destroy their entire way of life. Vermont purchases the vast majority of its power from the Canadian utility giant and Gov. Peter Shumlin currently chairs the New England Governors' Conference.

This new dam is but one aspect of a much larger development project in the region known as Plan Nord. According to the Québec government's official website, Plan Nord is "one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects in our time." The 25-year, $80 billion project will create or consolidate an average of 20,000 jobs per year, the Québec government says.

The Innu people — not to be confused with Canada's Inuit people — come from the community of Mani-Utenam, near the city of Sept Iles.  They are an indigenous population from northeastern Quebec and Labrador who claim they have never ceded their rights to the land to the Québec or Canadian governments.

In March of 2012, members of the Mani-Utenam community, which numbers roughly 4000 people, erected a blockade along Québec's Highway 138, the main artery along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The blockade was a protest against Plan Nord and dams being built along the Romaine River, about two to three hours northeast of their community. Highway 138 is the only way, except by boat, to access the inland areas along the north shore. It's also the only road into this part of Québec, and facilitates most of the industrial development that happens in this region.

Among the activists coming to Vermont is Elyse Vollant, an Innu grandmother who in June was arrested at the blockade, along with several others from the community. After the blockade was removed by dozens of riot police and Surete du Québec (Quebec state police), the Innu erected an encampment alongside 138.

Many Innu feel that the Charest government has ignored their concerns and traditional right to the land.  While some tribal councils have signed on to the Romaine project, other Innu view these councils as colonial forms of government that were set up by the Québec government without much consent from Innu decades ago.

According to Vermont activists working with the Innu, Mani-Utenam has not signed any agreements around the Romaine project.  However, Hydro-Québec has started clear cutting swaths of forest near their community for the transmission lines that will will carry power from the dams. For more on the Innu protests from earlier this year, check out this piece by Alexis Lathem in Toward Freedom.

Seven Days spoke with Vollant last weekend by phone in advance of her trip to Burlington. (French interpretation courtesy of Andrew Simon.)

SEVEN DAYS: Under Canadian law, do the Innu people have any legal rights or say over how this land will be used?

ELYSE VOLLANT: In general, First Nations have the right to a say over what happens in their territory. The communities affected held two referenda and said no to the dam being constructed. Hydro-Quebec, even after the referenda, has continued their construction work, putting in pylons for the dam... We have a right to determine what goes on in our territory and Hydro-Québec is not really listening to us when they continue the construction. 

Continue reading "Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington" »

June 01, 2012

'Courageous Conversations,' With Art, Launch in St. Johnsbury

559549_272058466226794_1285184283_nThis month Catamount Arts begins a series called "Courageous Conversations" that will address somber issues "facing the nation in general and the Northeast Kingdom in particular," says an announcement from director Jody Fried. Poverty, mental health and disabilities are the general topics for June, July and August, respectively.

So what's the art part?

Artists have long tackled weighty topics using a variety of media, and the "Conversations" series follows suit. Catamount is augmenting its live community/panel discussions with relevant films on Monday evenings and visual-art exhibits in the organization's Eastern Avenue gallery.

Continue reading "'Courageous Conversations,' With Art, Launch in St. Johnsbury" »

May 01, 2012

Noisy and United on a Raw May Day in Montpelier

March Editor's Note: Staff writer Paul Heintz contributed to this report.

Two hours after the start of a statewide march and rally on a raw May Day in Montpelier, climate-change activist Bill McKibben began his speech to a dwindled crowd by asking, "Where's global warming when you really need it?"

The spirit of the event felt more like the tulips and apple blossoms on the Statehouse lawn than like the sullen sky above the golden dome. Several hundred Vermonters joined in a noisy, festive demonstration, waving red-and-white placards emblazoned with the slogan, "Put People First."

A panoply of causes was represented on an occasion that most of the world celebrates as the workers' holiday. Many of the grievances got at least a mention from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who earned the day's loudest cheers after being introduced as the one politician "who stands up for us in Washington and stands with us here today."

Guy FawkesThe Senate's sole socialist deplored income inequality, child poverty, climate change, the Citizens' United corporations-are-people decision, and "our dysfunctional health care system." Sanders also denounced three U.S. wars: in Iraq, in Afghanistan and "against women." He said, "It's terribly important at this key moment that men stand with women to make sure the gains of the past 50 years are not lost."

Continue reading "Noisy and United on a Raw May Day in Montpelier" »

March 13, 2012

7 Questions For ... Move to Amend Founder David Cobb

David_Cobb_on_fireThe "corporations are not people" train makes another stop in Vermont this week.

Last Tuesday, on Town Meeting Day, 60 Vermont towns passed resolutions calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to repeal Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that spawned super PACs and gave corporations the same First Amendment rights as flesh-and-blood humans.

This week, David Cobb, founder of Move To Amend.org, will make two appearances in Vermont to build support for the campaign. A Texas-born lawyer, Cobb is best known for running for president on the Green Party ticket in 2004, after Ralph Nader opted to run as an independent. But he has since turned his sights to what might be an even loftier goal: passing the first major constitutional amendment in more than 40 years.

Cobb says it will take a while, but it can be done. He'll explain how this Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield, and on Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont. Admission is free and doors open at 6 p.m. for free Ben & Jerry's.

Seven Days caught up with Cobb by phone yesterday.

SEVEN DAYS: Not to spoil the surprise, but what will you be talking about on your swing through Vermont?

DAVID COBB: First, to help celebrate the real victory in the town hall meetings. That's the first step but let's take steps two, three, four to amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish corporate personhood and establish that money is not speech.

Continue reading "7 Questions For ... Move to Amend Founder David Cobb" »

November 11, 2011

Apparent Suicide at Occupy Burlington Camp - Updated, 11/12 at 8:40 p.m.

Occupy-scene Latest update to Storify: 11/12, 8:40 p.m.

Update, 11/11, 2:26 p.m.: In a briefing this morning, police identified the deceased as Joshua Pfenning, 35, a transient in the Burlington area. Police say Pfenning had consumed a "large quantity of alcohol," and that he pointed the gun at and threatened another person in the tent before the shooting. Police have contacted one witness who was in the tent at the time the shooting occurred and are looking for another, although they did not release the missing witness's name. The handgun used in the incident was apparently stolen from a home in Derby in 2009.

Responding to rumors that the victim was a military veteran, Deputy Chief Andi Higbee said that Pfenning was in the Army at one point, but was discharged after two weeks in boot camp.

Police Chief Michael Schirling says the city is now trying to balance public safety and its own investigation with the rights of Occupy Burlington protesters to assemble. The southern half of City Hall Park, where the Occupy camp is, will remain cordoned off indefinitely while the investigation continues The northern half remains open for all and Occupiers are welcome to continue demonstrations there during the hours the park is open. Police will no longer permit tents in the park, though.

According to court records, Pfenning has a criminal record dating back to 1999. He received a suspended jail sentence and probation following a drunk driving arrest in Orleans County in 2006. In September 2009, he pleaded guilty to DUI and operating with a suspended license in Chittenden County, and paid a fine. He pleaded guilty to DUI #2 and operating with a suspended license in Caledonia County in October 2010. He received a suspended jail sentence and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, and attend  alcohol screening, counseling and treatment. He was on probation through October 23, 2012.

Court records also indicate he was born in Middlebury, and that his birthday was Nov. 6 — four days before his apparent suicide.  

Andy Bromage contributed to this report. Click here to download the full text of Police Chief Michael Schirling's statement on the investigation and the future of Occupy Burlington.

Original post: Yesterday evening, police cleared City Hall Park to investigate the shooting death of a man who allegedly shot himself at the Occupy Burlington encampment. Occupiers, Burlington police and Mayor Bob Kiss met in the park and later inside City Hall to discuss how to proceed. The situation became tense after police detained a protester and displayed tear gas guns and other larger weapons. Kiss successfully negotiated the release of the protester, and a pastor from the Unitarian Universalist church invited Occupiers to spend the night there instead.

Continue reading "Apparent Suicide at Occupy Burlington Camp - Updated, 11/12 at 8:40 p.m." »

November 10, 2011

Occupy Bordello

4Man, I wish Eugene Hutz would loosen up a little bit. With a little more charisma, he could really go places.

I'm kidding, of course. The Burlington expat and the leader of globetrotting gypsy punks Gogol Bordello has done pretty well for himself since leaving the Queen City a decade ago to seek his fame and fortune in New York City — he now lives in Brazil. He's appeared in films such as Everything Is Iluminated and Filth & Wisdom. He's canoodled with Madonna. He's become the poster child for music that cross-pollinates western rock and punk with Eastern European influences. Simply put, Hutz has become a star. While his considerable talent is certainly key to his success, his sheer force of personality — namely, his irresistible, devilish charm — has been equally important in his transformation from teenaged Chernobyl refugee to global sensation.

Those of us who have been around Burlington long enough to remember his 1990s punk band, the Fags, have always known Eugene is special. Last night, Burlington was treated to an intimate glimpse of just how enigmatic and compelling a performer he is: Hutz and a handful of his Gogol bandmates dropped by the Occupy Burlington camp for an impromptu — if not exactly "secret" — show at, or rather in, the fountain at City Hall Park.

Continue reading "Occupy Bordello" »

November 06, 2011

Occupiers and Environmentalists Confront Vermont Democrats (VIDEO)

E89dbec8a219fc75215f8571163e02fb_viewYesterday was a rough day to be a Vermont Democrat.

First, labor activists got pissed off when party chairman Jake Perkinson quashed an effort to have a pro-state-worker resolution taken up at the party's annual organizational meeting. The resolution was prompted by some Democrats concerned that Gov. Peter Shumlin was interfering with state workers' collective-bargaining rights by filing a grievance over being denied emergency pay in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Then, a few hours later, a group of about 50 people confronted the governor, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other Democratic bigwigs as they entered the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre for the fall fundraising dinner.  

The group of protesters had a mixed bag of concerns, but all revolved around the state's energy policies: the industrialization of Vermont's ridge lines, specifically the Shumlin administration's precedent of turning the Lowell Mountain ridge lines into an industrial wind farm, and what that may bode for other mountain vistas in Vermont; and the corporatization of the state's utilities. They voiced objections to the state's  increasingly cozy relationship with Green Mountain Power.

Continue reading "Occupiers and Environmentalists Confront Vermont Democrats (VIDEO)" »

October 24, 2011

"Occupy Burlington" Plans to Truly Occupy Burlington

IMG_3040 Now in its fifth week, the Occupy Wall Street solidarity protesters in Burlington are beginning to channel their energy into more direct action.

Demonstrators plan to stage an actual occupation — of City Hall Park — starting this Friday.

On Sunday, about 150 people gathered in City Hall Park and marched up and down Church Street. Back at the park, the crowd held a "speak out" and "general assembly." The latter resembles a large town meeting, where facilitators help people make proposals to the group — either to form subgroups or take collective action — and bring specific proposals on which the assembly can vote.

The biggest "Occupy Vermont" rally to date was last Saturday, when as many as 500 people gathered in City Hall Park and marched through downtown Burlington. At last Sunday's weekly rally, about 250 people came together and held Burlington's first general assembly. From that meeting, several subgroups were formed — including ones focused on direct action, anti-misogyny, the economy, and media.

After a brief report from the spokesman for the "strategy working group," a demonstrator who identified himself only as Will, the rally-goers agreed to occupy City Hall Park starting at 3 p.m. this coming Friday. The occupation will last through the weekend.

When asked what the purpose of the occupation will be, Will replied, "That's a good question. We're open to suggestions."

Continue reading ""Occupy Burlington" Plans to Truly Occupy Burlington" »

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