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October 09, 2011

Hundreds of Protesters "Occupy Burlington" During Downtown Rally (VIDEO)

IMG_3040 More than 350 people marched through downtown Burlington on Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City — the third such rally in as many weeks.

With a street band leading the procession, the throng marched from City Hall Park up Church Street to the fountain at the top block, turned around, and marched down the street again as shoppers and diners looked on — some smiling, some seemingly dumbfounded and some applauding.

Marchers chanted, "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street" (see video below) as they marched first through the alleyway onto Church Street and along the narrow street passage between the outdoor patios at Sweetwaters and Ri Ra.

As with last week, protest messages and demands ran the gamut and the political spectrum. The multi-generational crowd's demands were as varied as its attendees: End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support unionized workers at Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont, end the corporate influence on the electoral system, end the "corporatization" at UVM, support migrant farm workers, end the Federal Reserve, and the list went on.

When the marchers reached College Street, they made a right turn and "occupied" the intersection of College and St. Paul streets, as they did last week, on the steps of Citizens Bank. Citizens is a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which received billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, otherwise known as the financial bailout of 2008.

As they marched down College Street, the crowd repeated another rallying cry from the march: "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." (see video below)

Others joined in the rally and at one point, the crowd appeared to swell to nearly 500 people.

Though the protesters were not of one mind politically and weren't calling for identical demands, a number of the protesters appeared to agree on a few key points: That the political system has been gamed by monied influence peddlers and financial institutions often wield too much power.

One speaker at the rally, Robert Skiff of South Burlington, tried to unify the group through what he believes are shared objectives.

"We are socialists, communists, anarchists, libertarians," said Skiff, pointing to himself when he said the word libertarian. "Capitalists, Democrats, Republicans, but we all know that something is deeply wrong in our democracy and we will no longer be silent and we raise our voice to our common enemies: mega-corporations, banks that are too big to fail and the Federal Reserve."

Skiff urged the crowd to think about occupying City Hall Park — permanently — as a show of solidarity with protesters in New York City.

Absent from the rally, as was largely the case last week, were politicians. Robert Cavooris, of Burlington, took note of their absence, but added that politicians are starting to take notice and speaking up in support of the occupation on Wall Street.

"Let them join us, but don't let them take it over. This is not about a re-election strategy," said Cavooris. "This is not a movement of the ballot box, this is a movement of the streets."

One of the speakers, Paul Fleckenstein, reminded the crowd that this week marks the tenth anniversary of another occupation — the occupation of Afghanistan.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are what drew Roger Gibeault and Mary McGinley, an elderly pair of protesters, to Sunday's rally. The pair missed last week's protest but were moved to attend Sunday's event because of their long-standing work with the local chapter of Pax Christi, a peace group that celebrated its 30th anniversary this past week.

"What we stand for as Catholics and as human beings is peace and justice for the poor, and for everyone in the world," said McGinley, as she held a sign that read: "Stop Greed / We Need / Regulation".

"We started two wars and collected no taxes to support it," said Gibeault. "That's just never been done before. Now look where we're at."

Both Gibeault and McGinley said they believed that many of the so-called "99 percent" may not be aware of how much money flows to financial institutions and large corporations or how little trickles down to them.

The "99 percent" references everyone, economically, who is not among the country's wealthiest 1 percent. Various reports show that the concentration of wealth at the top 1 percent exceeds that of the bottom 95 percent combined.

Gibeault and McGinley are also increasingly upset by the golden parachutes and high pay of top administrators at UVM. "It's becoming corporatized," said Gibeault, "and whenever that happens they put themselves first over people."

Several speakers decried the recent golden parachute given to former UVM President Dan Fogel and what they see as the mistreatment of university workers.

Nick Gerber, a UVM freshman from Pennsylvania, told the crowd that unionized workers at UVM need community support because the administration is trying to cut back on retirees' health care benefits and change benefits for new hires. Gerber is a member of Students for University Democracy, an on-campus student group

Kate Cadreact, a nurse at FAHC and self-described "farmer's wife," said she came to the rally — and spoke to the crowd — because she has a daughter struggling to make a living in New York City. She also came because her son at UVM just saw his financial aid slashed in half while Fogel received a $400,000 severance package and a $195,000-a-year job teaching English, and her former boss — FAHC CEO Melinda Estes — left the hospital earning more than $2 million annually.

"We were forced to sell off some of our dairy herd to pay for tuition," said Cadreact. "I wrote to the Board of Trustees to complain and didn't receive a response. I wrote to my politicians, and heard nothing. The political system is dead, we need to do this ourselves."

Several speakers at the rally asked people to bring more friends to next week's rally — to be held Saturday at City Hall Park — to grow their numbers even more. Last week roughly 150 people joined the protest. Other rallies will be held throughout Vermont on Saturday, with sites organized in Brattleboro, Montpelier and Rutland. 

* * * *

This first video shows the protest march as it left City Hall Park and headed through the alleyway onto Church Street, chanting "All day, all week; occupy Wall Street."


The next video shows protesters heading down College Street, from Church Street, on their way to the steps of Citizens Bank, chanting "Banks got bailed out; we got sold out."

Yeah, this is all over Facebook. You know, Facebook, the corporate giant which will soon have its own PAC. If you're going to walk the walk, then walk door-to-door and give up Facebook. They're as bad as Lockheed and it's hypocritical of people to denounce one and not the other.

"Skiff urged the crowd to think about occupying City Hall Park — permanently — as a show of solidarity with protesters in New York City."

No, Mr. Skiff. It's not your park. You and your friends don't get to occupy it permanently just because you want to.

I'm all for freedom of speech and demonstrations, but the hypocrisy of this movement is staggering. Everyone marching and yelling about 'big corporations and banks' are using iphones, the internet, and ibm laptops to squawk about their message. It's absurd. Plus you have to wonder where the money they are using to travel to Burlington or NYC or wherever is coming from. Are they working, or just living off the rest of us? I'm writing this from an internet cafe right now, on my lunch break, from a JOB. We hear you, you're pissed about 1%ers or whatever, but it's time to get back to work.

I'm so glad to see this movement growing. It's high time for people to do something about our broken system. And some of the reactions leave me scratching my head... dissent is as all-American as you can get--it's the root of our founding-- so why the anger?

To Diane, most of these people live here nobody is busing them in ala the Tea baggers.
These are the voices of working class people the media and our politicians leave out of the debate. We can al give up phones and computers but it won't do a thing if we don't change the system. It is our military that is one of the greatest contributers to global warming not to mention the deaths of civilians at a 7 to one civilian to soldier ratio. Feel good about pumping up our GDP through killing people?

Interesting that the same comment wasn't reserved for the mayor, Peggy, you hypocrite. Where's the "dislike" button?

@ Dianne: ditto.

@ Luhrs: let's see, your incoherent rant goes from claiming that the Occupy Whatever Street movement in Burlington is people who live here (What's your proof for this? Since when do students "live here"? And who cares whether they live here or not -- Dianne's point was that someone else is paying for all of these people to lounge in NYC and Burlington);

to claiming that it is the voice of the working class (What is "working class" and what's your proof for this claim? Are college kids "working class"?);

to indicting the military is "one of the greatest contributors" to global warming (Source please, and what does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street?);

to claiming that the military kill ratio is 7 civilians for 1 soldier (Source please, and what does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street?);

to claiming that our GDP is increased through killing people (Source please, and what does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street?).

Christ, have trouble with focus, much? And what is your proof for any of these statements, or do we just have to accept "Luhrs Law"?

Diane, you seem to be very resentful toward the occupation protestors. It doesn't sound like you enjoy your corporate servitude very much. Hopefully more people will join this movement and do something proactive to revive democracy in this country before the plutocracy has totally demolished the drowsy middle class and has accumulated all of the wealth. This pluralistic movement is in the deepest tradition of Vermont democracy. Down with plutocracy; long live democracy!

Peggy, do you have a reference for your claim that our military is "one of the greatest contributors to global warming"? I bet it's a small fraction of cars, homes, and businesses.

Peggy is right about the military's contribution to global warming. What she and the other "No Lockheed" people were wrong about was to denounce the mayor as a hypocrite and a warmonger because of the association with Lockheed. It's long been time for the people to rise up but you have to denounce Facebook, too, instead of using them to promote your message. And you have to denounce Apple because, as wonder as their products are, they are made in China. They could easily be made here and they'd make a little less profit, but they don't. So, everyone has to bite the hand that feeds them or this won't work. The only thing that you'll have accomplished is annoying more people with your pitch trying to sell them Socialist Worker.

Everyone, cut it out with the name calling and personal attacks, please.

You know, I agree with this on principle -- income disparity in this country is a major problem, the system favors the wealthy and our politicians have failed us on economic fronts. But this is where "Occupy Burlington" loses me. I get why you wanna Occupy Wall Street: take your message right to the bankers. But why Burlington? What is there to accomplish by bothering tourists eating lunch on Church Street and blocking traffic for locals? When you're occupying, are you defining Wall Street as your enemy, or Burlington as your enemy? Because you'll get a lot more sympathy for your cause with one of those. Protestors, please, work on your messaging skills. The "people's mike" is cute, but it's not helping you.

Facebook and Google both sponsored GOP debates last month. If you're using these products you're part of the problem.

Um . . . it's bad to call people names, but it's okay for Luhrs to suggest that Dianne "feels good about killing people"? That's rather outrageous. It's Comrade Luhrs who's the incendiary here -- as usual.

#1. Campaign Finance Reform: The person with the most money and a good message seems to win; lets' take fund raising out of the equation and let the media offer real equal time to all of the candidates.

On the "how are people paying to get to Wall Street?" We took up a collection during the general assembly and raised more than $100 last week and $200 this week specifically for that very purpose. Many small donations, and a picture of the left-over treasury here:

"Marchers chanted, "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street"

...or hang out in a public park for a few hours on a sunny Sunday in safe, friendly Burlington Vermont, whichever. Wheeeee!

Please, Skiff, set up your little tent in City Hall Park. I'll be the one standing by with the golf clap as they Menino you.

@Pin if you look at the page for Occupy Vermont there is actually a good idea which is creating a single Facebook account for all Burlington residents, and IDing yourself through copy & pasting a label you will use for all your posts. Thus residents who don't like Facebook could get around some of the privacy invasion by FB.
I won't name the various programs here(not illegal but it's better to keep this stuff for people who really want it),but there are various new privacy techniques,using routers in very interesting ways one can use to throw off sites like FB or google that try to track people.
An obvious one is VPN.
All it takes is a bit of creativity.

Occupy Wall Street is full of attention starved pseudo hippies that are angry at everyone yet have not made any sacrifices. I can only imagine how this generation would deal with a real crisis like the Great Depression. I'm shocked that you haven't shown up at the airport to spit at soldiers returning from the Middle East like the losers you are trying to emmulate did in the 1960's and 70's. "We Got Sold Out" is the battel cry yet why do you not place the blame out the doorstep of those that really caused the "crisis", namely people like Mayor Kiss, Senator Barney Frank, and President Obama. When the temperature drops, your numbers will do the same. Then you can sit in the safe confines of Starbucks, drinking a $4 latte while complaining that your broke via text on your $200 a month iphone. Suck it up generation lame.

Generation Lame. No kidding.

Reminds me of the old SNL skit...

Ted Koppel: Ma'am? Do you have a question?

Undecided Female Voter 1: See, it's like, you look all around, and you see all this stuff? And, everybody's got stuff but me! Where's mine?! Where's MY stuff?! I'm young, man! I should have stuff, too! WHERE'S MY STUFF?!!

Bill Clinton: Well, that's a really good point. I hear this a lot. I think if this election is about anything, it's about... "stuff". It's about the fact that, under Reagan, Bush, Quayle, more people are working harder and harder for less stuff.

[ Hillary nods and smiles ]

Undecided Female Voter 1: [ twitching ] Where's my stuff, man?!

Bill Clinton: Exactly! Where is your stuff? We're in danger of raising the first generation of Americans who... will have less stuff than their parents.

Undecided Female Voter 1: Stuff! Yeah!

Ted Koppel: So, has Gov. Clinton influenced the way you will vote?

Undecided Female Voter 1: I'm... not voting 'til I get my stuff!

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