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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."

People planning to camp out for the weekend should bring tents, sleeping bags, food and other things to keep themselves "comfortable," said Will. People who have extra camping gear were encouraged to bring it.

This is the status of the nascent "Occupy" movement that is bringing together socialists and libertarians, peaceniks and labor activists, veterans and students. There is no one unifying message, platform or list of easy-to-recite demands.

In general, the crowd wants justice and fairness, and wants big government and big business to stop messing around with little folk. And, they want to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reform the Federal Reserve, get rid of the two-party political system, call on the University of Vermont to craft fair budgets for students and workers and — last but not least — close Vermont Yankee.

Additional occupations are in the works. The University of Vermont is one possible location as is Vermont Yankee, according to rally attendees who have attended a so-called "strategy working group."

"There are other places we are thinking to occupy that might get us into trouble," said Will. "Because of that, we're not saying where that might be in order to keep the element of surprise on our side."

Matthew Cropp, one of the early organizers of Vermont's Occupy rallies, suggested a group of people picket outside of one of the large, out-of-state banks.


Al Salzman, a retired teacher from Franklin County, made the trek to Burlington to unveil his latest protest sign, a police tape-style banner that read: "Shumlin's Budget = Mortal Idiocy & Cruelty! Makes the Rich Richer & Screws the Elderly & Poor!" Under these words were written, "We're all Greeks," referencing the unrest in Greece over austerity measures being taken to keep the country from complete insolvency.

Salzman said he wants to channel some of the pent-up anger and frustration at Wall Street toward things closer to home, for instance the state budget. He hopes more people begin paying attention to the budget-cutting measures being weighed in Montpelier.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked agency budget writers to cut next year's budget by 4 percent. As of now, that would not include restoration of a 3 percent pay cut to state workers.

The "media working group" has established a wiki for the "Occupy Burlington" effort, which is designed to allow more people to participate — albeit electronically — in the various working groups that meet in between the weekly rallies. That wiki site is There, people can check out reports from the various working groups, and follow the "Occupy" groups springing up in other parts of the state — including Bennington, Brattleboro, Montpelier and Rutland.

The general assembly, which occurred around the fountain at the center of City Hall Park, displaced some of the homeless who had been gathered there to drink and play chess.

Upset by being displaced, two of the men confronted the protesters. In turn, the protesters tried to explain to the men that they were, in fact, allies. That didn't seem to appease the men who were stumbling and slurring their words. Shortly afterward, two uniformed police officers arrived to talk to the men; the officers also dumped out liquid from at least one water bottle belonging to the homeless group, which sought refuge from the protesters on the steps of City Hall.

Unlike in New York City, where police officers are buffering the 1 percent from the rowdy masses, Burlington cops were keeping the 99 percent from being harassed by folks who might be called the 99.999999 percent.

"it's only been one month. Imagine the impact we will have by the 2012 elections!"

If . . . what? You camp out in city hall park for another year?

By then everybody will despise you. We already have that. It's called homeless people. And they haven't changed the world by occupying our public spaces.

"We will not be tear-gassed, beaten, bullied, or teased into submission.... the sleeping giant has awakened. "

Really? Do you see occupiers as the next Libyian rebels? Or are you just taking for granted that the US will not do that to their own people?

Just a note from the actual Farmers Market Manager: We are happy to share the park with Occupy Burlington on Saturday. I do say "share", because even though the park is a public park, we have a contract with the City to use that space on Saturdays for the market and pay for that right. We have, I believe, an agreement with Occupy Burlington to use the north end of the park and they will occupy the south end. After the market at 2, which will be the last outdoor market, we are fine with the group moving into what ever areas it wishes to. We acknowledge that a lot of the groups members are our customers and thank them for their patronage during the season. I have also been approached by some of our vendors that they would like to donate goods to the group after or during the market. To my knowledge we have never said on behalf of the market, that we are not willing to use the park with the group or that we disagree with them at all.

Everyone involved with this movement either for it or against it is obviously very passionate. I am sure that our individual vendors have their own views but as far as the Burlington Farmers Market Assn. is concerned we simply want to have a great last market.

"I am sure that our individual vendors have their own views but as far as the Burlington Farmers Market Assn. is concerned we simply want to have a great last market."

So capitalism is ok after all?

Since I bitched about this early on, I will now say I am relieved that the market has made "an accomodation" with the Occupy people.

As for you Occupiers: please don't trash our park.

Letter from City Hall says no one in the park after midnight. Surprising but welcome ruling. There was something in there about holding off on enforcing the camping ban, although I'm not sure whether pitching a tent between 6am and midnight qualifies as "camping" anyway - or why you'd want to do that, exactly.

firmly believe that ows has started folks thinking (and talking) about the many ways in which the vast majority of americans have been kept out of the discussion when it comes to making our contry work for all of us. believe the entire movement would benefit by an organized march on washington - a march attended by millions of middle-class (and dreaming-to-be-able-to-be-middle=class-someday) citizens.

it's not just the banks that have left us out in the cold. it's a political system that's for sale to the highest bidder that allows all of this to happen. look at dylan ratigan's "get money out" as an example of a movement that just might actually make a point and prove its worth.

"it's not just the banks that have left us out in the cold. it's a political system that's for sale to the highest bidder that allows all of this to happen."

All that Americans have to do is vote the incumbent Reps. and Senators out of office. There can be no argument that if even a portion of the "99%" voted their economic interests, there would be change. If Americans are too stupid to vote their own interests -- or too lazy to vote at all (as I suspect a huge portion of the "occupiers" are) -- then I have no sympathy.

Most either don't vote or vote party lines no matter how many times Leahy and Sanders have shafted the people of this state.

Just look at people defend comrade Bernie. He gets up and shouts and then passes 2 bills in a decade and a half. The rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer...All on Bernies watch. Why on earth would anyone vote for him?

So the Kiss Administration has decided to "look the other way" on the city ordinances that the "occupiers" are breaking by camping overnight in City Hall Park.

Anyone who thinks the city would look the other way -- ever, ever, ever -- if the people breaking the law were Tea Party activists or anti-abortion activists or anti-immigration activists or anti-climate change activists or Pro-Israel activists or creationists or pro-VT Yankee activists, raise your hands. Be freakin' honest. Just once. Please.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

How can it be fair, honest, right, and just to "look the other way" on law-breaking just for one single point of view? How can someone who does this look themselves in the mirror the next morning? Oh, I forgot, it's Kiss -- the moderately high functioning autistic who thinks that rules only apply to non-Progressives.

I'll take that bet, Caleb. I think the larger problem is that Burlington Police are not in position to confront 30 people at once, regardless of their views. Sheer numbers are winning.

Also, you should be ashamed for using "autistic" as an insult. Please try to have a little class.

So if -- heaven help us -- 30 Klan members decided to camp overnight in City Hall Park, Burlington would do nothing about it because the numbers are too big for Burlington Police to handle? No. Kiss would have the state police and all the county sheriffs here in a heartbeat, which I would of course agree with. "Looking the other way" when it's "Occupy" is 100% selective enforcement, pure and simple. Kiss should be honest about it.

But then, why start now?

"Burlington Police are not in position to confront 30 people at once"

That's asinine, and highly insulting to the BPD.

The Police do what City Hall tells them to do, and right now that is to not precipitate a riot. Face it you guys just want to see "cops beating up hippies" ala Abe Simpson.

No, I do not want to see anybody get beat up. That's an unfair charge. I do want to see the rules applied to everyone evenhandedly, whether they are "hippies," or Klan members, or Tea Partiers, or Westboro Baptist Church members, or anti-abortion protesters, or Raging Grannies. If the rules say you can't sleep in the park, then that rule should be enforced.

Sorry Caleb, just trying to lighten things up. Nobody left here anyway. I may as well go back to insulting Tyler.


Unless Jonathan Leavitt sitting alone in the park crying is a riot, I don't think throwing everyone out of the park would cause a riot.

Baruch, host of Paradigms on WBKM would like to interview people from Occupy Burlington on Saturday, November 5. Interviews take place over the phone. They are recorded and will be aired Sunday Nov 6 on Paradigms at 8 PM Eastern. Paradigms is about inspired inspiring people; visions of a viable future for life on Earth including humans. If you would like to be interviewed please contact Baruch [email protected] or 802-232-4205. Thank you!

The voices of the occupiers have been calm, compassionate and embracing. Some people few people have expressed concerns without acrimony. The voices of opposition have derogated, ridiculed, and sounded for all of their protests to the contrary like people in need of attention, thinking the only way to get it is to terrorize other people.

Reasonable people will ignore these rantings. We who understand the reasons for protest waste our time pushing back against people who do not care to investigate, with any sincere interest, the reasons or reasoning of other people. The only possible merit is that some interesting people have made some interesting arguments. Thanks.

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