Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

15 posts categorized "Occupy Vermont" Feed

August 02, 2012

Chief Schirling Says Pic 'Clearly' Shows Protester Reached for Cop's Baton, Photographer Disputes Chief's Version

Protest Photo 1

Updated below: Chief Schirling retracts statement, apologizes for mistake. 

Does this photograph show a protester from Sunday's clash with Burlington police grabbing a cop's baton?

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition" today that the photo — snapped by Dylan Kelley and posted online at Seven Days — "clearly" shows the demonstrator in the black bandana grabbing the baton of police Lt. Art Cyr.

"What I see in the photograph, they have a hold of it," Schirling told VPR host Steve Zind. "They are clearly resisting and you can clearly see in the left of the photo, a man in a black bandana grabbed hold of Lt. Cyr's baton, and that is what precipated the first event."

Cropped-Photo in Question (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012)Activists and cops have traded accusations about who's to blame for the incident in which police fired "stingball pellets" into a crowd of demonstrators blocking a bus of dignitaries from leaving a conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. The tension gave way to a moment of cooperation yesterday when demonstrators and their lawyer called for a dialogue with police about the events that led to the clash.

After hearing Schirling's remarks on VPR, the photographer who took the picture said he was "livid," calling Schirling's claim "an absolute lie."

"If you look at the picture, it clearly illustrates that that person's hand is not wrapped around the baton," said Dylan Kelley, who has photographed occupy protests around the country. "It is wrapped around a flag or banner or something else. If you zoom in on that lower left hand corner of the frame, and you look at that person's hand, it is not wrapped around the baton."

Kelley, who said he was at most four feet away from Cyr, sent Seven Days higher-resolution version of the photograph, which we zoomed in on and cropped to publish here. From the photograph, it's difficult to say what the bandana-clad protester is clutching, and Schirling was not immediately available Thursday afternoon to respond to Kelley's comments.

Update - 4 p.m.

Upon viewing the close-up of the photograph, Chief Schirling has retracted his earlier statement made on Vermont Public Radio. In a statement emailed to Seven Days and VPR Thursday afternoon, Schirling said:

"On the show earlier today I described a photograph from the 7 Days website that was given to us this morning as showing a man grabbing an officer's baton. A few moments ago 7 Days emailed us a much higher resolution enhanced version of the photograph. Upon examination of this new photograph we realize it is not the baton. We will work during our investigation and 'after action' review to try to determine what it is. Our assessment of this portion of the event was based solely on the photograph available earlier in the day. I want to be sure we set the record straight as quickly as possible as new information comes to light. I apologize for the error. We continue to ask that anyone with information about this incident, video, photographic, or otherwise, contact us so we may be as thorough as possible."

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 30, 2012

Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington

ProtestPolice fired pepper balls and sting balls at protesters outside the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference in Burlington yesterday.

Activists from New England and Quebec converged on the Queen City for a day of protests outside the conference, which took place at the Hilton Burlington. The protests centered on Canada's mining of tar sands oil and what environmentalists believe is a plan to ship tar sands oil through the Northeast Kingdom. Protesters also rallied in solidarity with Quebec's student demonstrations and representatives from the Innu First Nation denounced Hydro Quebec.

The rallies were peaceful and non-violent all day long, with protesters numbering in the hundreds. But late in the afternoon, a small group of protesters attempted to block buses believed to be carrying the governors and premiers from leaving the Hilton's side driveway on College Street. It was then that protesters and police clashed and some protesters were shot with "less-lethal" munitions.

From a Burlington Police Department press release:

[Protesters] were warned several more times before a crowd control team of officers with plastic shields and helmets was deployed to walk ahead of the bus following standard procedure to ensure that protestors were not struck and to assist the bus in leaving. As the officers walked forward they were physically confronted by the crowd. Some began pushing back toward the officers, others sat on the ground while at least two others laid down locking arms. 

Click here to read the full account of the incident from the police department.

Below are some videos and photos shot by protesters and onlookers.

Continue reading "Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington" »

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" »

February 03, 2012

Art Handler Union, Students Occupy UVM Board Meeting

DSC03067For Julian Tysh, a typical workday is spent among masterpieces.

An art handler by trade, Tysh shuttles priceless art and artifacts between Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan and the estates of its one-percenter clients. His colleagues have handled everything from decommissioned space shuttles to a copy of the Magna Carta, and he himself once hung a Warhol print he estimates was worth well north of $20 million.

But Tysh hasn’t had a typical workday in a while.

Last July, Sotheby’s locked Tysh and 41 other members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 814 out of its facilities, fearing a planned strike would disrupt operations at the auction house. The two sides were deadlocked in a dispute over whether to reduce the handlers’ work week and increase the number of temporary, non-union workers.

Since then, Tysh has found himself on picket lines, in Zuccotti Park and — on Friday afternoon — at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center.

Joined by three fellow art handlers and a ragtag crew of 30 UVM students, faculty members and assorted Occupiers, Tysh spoke out at a press conference demanding the resignation of Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht from the university’s board of trustees.

“An attack on working families in New York is an attack on working families in Vermont and injustice in New York is injustice in Burlington,” he told the group. “Folks here are outraged by the fact that this university, which strives for these higher ideals, would let themselves be brought down to a less decent level by these actions that are happening in the name of the board of trustees.”

Continue reading "Art Handler Union, Students Occupy UVM Board Meeting" »

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

Man in "Grave" Condition After Shooting At Occupy Burlington Encampment (VIDEO)


UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: WCAX-TV is reporting the man has died.

The Occupy Burlington encampment remained roped off with police tape Thursday afternoon after a 35-year-old camper apparently shot himself in City Hall Park.

Burlington police said the man was in "grave" condition. Numerous occupiers told Seven Days they believed the man, who they know only as "Josh," was dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Earlier in the day, police were seen removing a body from one of the tents.

Deputy Chief Andi Higbee said police received a 911 call around 2 p.m. reporting gun shots in the park. Higbee said the victim was in "grave" condition and "receiving treatment at the hospital." Police have recovered a weapon and identified the victim but did not release his name pending notification of his family.

"We do not have any reason to believe the public is at risk," Higbee said, adding that the shooting happened "inside or nearby one of the tents."

By late afternoon, the future of the three-week-old Occupy Burlington encampment appeared in doubt. Mayor Bob Kiss planned to meet with key deputies about the incident this afternoon. Organizers of the movement huddled in the park to mourn and plot next steps.

Asked by a reporter if the shooting gives him pause about the future of the occupation, Higbee replied, "Yeah, I think that's a fair statement." (Video of Higbee's statement below the break).

Asked if he thinks it should be shut down, Higbee replied, "I don't think I'm at a point where I could characterize that. It certainly gives us cause for concern. Our responsibility is to keep the public safe and discharge of a firearm in a public place like this, you know, it gives me pause."

Continue reading "Man in "Grave" Condition After Shooting At Occupy Burlington Encampment (VIDEO)" »

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" »

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684