Tuesday, March 27, 2007

8 Arrested this Evening in Sanders' Office

I've just returned home from the citizen action at Senator Sanders' Burlington office.

We gathered in front of City Hall and walked up to the top of Church Street for the planned protest.

Around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon about 20 or so of us entered his office. The staff knew we were coming, but they were not happy at our presence. Phil Fiermonte, the Senator's Burlington outreach director, told us that the Senator was just too busy "working for the people" in Washington to speak with us. He put down a speaker phone so we could speak with Jeff Weaver, Sanders' DC chief-of-staff. Same ol' shit. Sanders was co-sponsoring various get out of Iraq bills. But Jeff would not commit to stating that the Senator would not vote for continued funding. It was strange behaviour from Fiermonte, who clearly likes to be praised for his earlier civil actions against the establishment. He would not answer questions about those times and the present situation (as a go-fer for Bernie), when asked.

During the afternoon I would guess that around 50 people came into the office to express their desire to end the war and bring the troops home NOW.

Liza Earl, one of the coordinators of today's action read an speech given last week by Republican/Libertarian Texas Congressperson Ron Paul. If only Mr Welch had the guts to speak with such eloquence.

Mid-afternoon, after getting little attention to our pleas from Fiermonte, we telephoned Sanders' office and spoke with Yehudi Sugarman, his staffperson. We asked him to communicate with Sanders that we would be available to speak with him and would stay in his office - and would he ask Sanders to keep staff at his Burlington office even after it closed - until he was finished with today's senatorial duties. He assured us that he would do so. The feeling among our group was that Fiermonte et al had kept the knowledge of our visit to Sanders office away from the Senator. When we told him we had communicated with Mr Sugarman, Fiermonte told us pointedly that it was ineffectual because he's the lowest person on the staff and never speaks with Sanders directly. To be honest, I think that the staff in DC knew we'd call and it was all set up to happen this way.

So much for democracy.

And their "appreciation" for grass-roots activism was so condescending. We are citizens and should be respected.

Just after 6 p.m., for refusing to leave the office, I was among 8 citizens who were arrested: 3 women and 5 men. (No cute cops, no strip search... after all I was disobedient.) My arrest papers tell me that I may not return to Sanders' office for one year from today (requested by Phil Fiermonte, the outreach director). That's what he says.

Peter Freyne Freynland blog: Eight Peace People Busted at Bernie's --
The antiwar protestors say Bernie the Senator should not vote for one more penny to fund George W. Bush's Iraq War.

"The Vermont delegation is united," said Weaver. "We want the war to end as quickly as possible. We're all on the same page."

As for the protesters demands, Weaver told us, "It's easy to be on the outside and criticize. We're on the inside trying to get something done."

Criticise?!? How about citizen engagement and listening to the people, Mr Weaver. As much as I disagree with Freyne's marketing for the Dems and Bernie, I think he captures the irony of Fiermonte's and Weaver's past "activism" and their current switcheroo.

WCAX-TV Channel 3 late breaking story: Eight arrested in war protest at Sanders' office

Vermont Guardian: Antiwar protestors occupy Sanders’ office --

Weaver told the group that Sanders is working to strip the bill of any provisions relating to Iran, and wanted to support the “strongest piece of legislation possible.”

Auch, and others, immediately said that wasn’t good enough.

“Peter Welch told us the same thing, and he lied,” said Auch. “I would ask that Bernie not do the same.”

Two Iraq War veterans — Drew Cameron and Matt Howard — also spoke to Weaver, urging Sanders to support the troops by stopping the war.

“Supporting the troops is empty rhetoric, and years too late,” said Howard. “I have not felt any support from our government.”

Cameron asked if Sanders would trim money in the budget slated for private military contractors.

“A contractor recently asked a buddy of mine what he was doing in Iraq if he wasn’t there to make the big bucks,” said Cameron. “What will Bernie do to stop the corruption in regards to contractor abuse?”

As Weaver got off the phone call, the thanked the protestors and said Sanders would be working to make sure that troops would be home “as soon as possible.”

To that, several people responded loudly, “No, now.”

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