Massive Civil Disobedience In Vermont A Possible Game-Changer

| Resist!

Dance party against the pipeline / photo from Rising Tide Vermont

This morning, a group of students stood in protest against Governor Shumlin’s fossil fuels infrastructure policy after a night of massive civil disobedience that saw some 64 people arrested.

Yesterday’s demonstration consisted of more than a hundred community members staging a mass sit in at Shumlin’s office on the top floor of the Pavillion Building, accompanied by a dance party on the bottom floor. The sit in lasted several hours.

Shumlin was not present, but requested that everyone act respectfully, stating, “While I agree that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our state, nation, and world, I disagree with the protesters’ position on the natural gas pipeline, which I believe will help hasten our state’s transition away from dirtier fuel oil and help our economy.”

 Protesters gather at Vermont's statehouse to pressure Gov. Peter Shumlin to withdaw his support for Vermont Gas Systems' natural gas pipeline expansion. (Bob Kinzel/VPR)

John Herrick  atVTDigger.org interviewed some people at the site:

Traven Leyshon, 67, of the Vermont Workers’ Center, said the protesters will engage in “escalating actions” until the pipeline is stopped.

“Next time expect more people and likely different tactics — that if need be, we can play hardball,” he said, noting that he was speaking for himself and not the Vermont Workers’ Center.

He said pipeline opponents are united by non-violent principles, ”but that doesn’t mean we don’t engage in civil disobedience. We have to change what’s politically possible.”

Organizations involved in the protest include Rising Tide Vermont, Just Power, the Vermont Workers Center, and 350 Vermont. They point out that leakage of methane from pipelines and gas infrastructure can be up to 7.9 percent—a greater quantity of emissions than coal.

The massive occupation is only one in a long series of protests against natural gas infrastructure in Vermont. It stands out, along with the occupation of the State House in Montana in 2012 by EF! and Rising Tide as a possible game changer in the way policy is being put forward, but the fight is far from over.

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According to Herrick,

“Vermont Gas is proposing a second project that would connect Middlebury to a paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., which regulators will review next year. The company is also planning a project to bring gas to Rutland, and hopes to eventually connect to a natural gas pipeline network in New York or Massachusetts.

As the group of about 35 waited to be arrested, they clapped and sang familiar refrains: ‘We shall not give up the fight, we have only started.’”