by Peter Freyne
Almost a quarter-century ago, the antiwar protesters were upset by U.S. policy in Central America. In fact, Phil Fiermonte, pictured here in the white shirt at left, was himself an antiwar protester back in those days. Even got himself arrested for unlawful trespass in 1984 as part of the infamous Winooski 44 occupation of GOP U.S. Sen. Robert T. Stafford's Winooski office in the Champlain Mill.
Ah! The good old days.
Today Phil heads up U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' Burlington office, and it was Fiermonte, a former Progressive city councilor, too, who gave the word to the peaceful Iraq War protesters earlier this evening that they'd be arrested if they did not leave Sanders' Church Street office.
Eight, including some veteran Vermont peace activists like Marmette Hayes, 82, were arrested by Burlington cops, removed from the building and released on citation after Sen. Sanders office officially closed for the day.
Sen. Sanders did not speak with the demonstrators by phone from Washington, but his Capitol Hill Chief of Staff Jeff Weaver did.
Weaver told "Freyne Land" that the protesters (getting the word to clear out from Deputy Police Chief Walt Decker, at right), had called and asked for an appointment with Bernie, "but nobody else demands attention on less than 24 hours notice." Weaver noted the Burlington crew had kept Ol' Bernardo's Burlington office open an extra half-hour to accomodate the antiwar protesters.
"Even our hard-working staff has to go home at some point," he told us.
Weaver, a former Marine, also noted he had been arrested back in 1986 for protesting apartheid at Boston University. Got suspended from school for it and he returned home to Vermont where he went to work for an Independent gubernatorial candidate named Bernie Sanders. Was his driver. The dude didn't win the governor's race that year, but he stayed in the game. Has been in Congress since winning a U.S. House seat in 1990 and holding it until he won the U.S. Senate seat Jeezum Jim Jeffords retired from last November.
Weaver's moved up a bit from driver, too.
The antiwar protesters 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."