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Something for Everyone to Protest

Local Matters


Published May 23, 2006 at 6:42 p.m.

WHEN: Thursday, May 18

WHERE: R.U.1.2? Queer Community Center, Burlington

WHO: Vermont TransAction

THEIR BEEF: Gender Identity & Expression Bill Veto

One day after Governor Douglas vetoed a bill that would have offered legal protections to transgender and transsexual Vermonters, about 60 of the measure's supporters -- many of them affiliated with the activist coalition Vermont TransAction -- gathered to protest. Some held signs with slogans such as "Shame on Douglas the Discriminator," and "Another native Vermonter who believes in respect and equality for all."

Representative Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg), who introduced the bill in the House last year, was one of several politicians present; others included Representative Jason Lorber (D-Burlington), John Tracy (D-Burlington) and Queen City Mayor Bob Kiss. They noted that the legislation had tripartisan support and passed easily through both the House and the Senate, though with too few votes to override the veto.

Jes Kraus, a transgender attorney who testified in favor of the bill, told the crowd he was "horribly confused and disgusted" with Douglas' decision.

After the protest was over, he suggested a new bumper sticker. "How about, 'Jim = Jobs,'" he said, "with a little asterisk that says, 'unless you're trans.'"



WHEN: Thursday, May 18

WHERE: Burlington City Hall Park

WHO: Americans for Prosperity Foundation

THEIR BEEF: Federal earmarks

Out-of-control deficit spending by Congress came under fire May 18 as the "Ending Earmarks Express Tour" swung through Burlington's City Hall Park. Its target: the Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts. The Earmarks Express, a nationwide campaign by the nonpartisan group, Americans for Prosperity Foundation of Washington, D.C., is aimed at eliminating the "egregious earmarks" lawmakers sneak into bills behind closed doors, without public discussion or debate.

Michelle Korsmo, executive vice president of the APF, said she "appreciates fine art" and assumes the Firehouse Gallery provides a valuable community service. She's less keen, though, on how this particular project managed to receive $900,000 in federal earmarks between 2001 and 2003, including one that was attached to a housing and urban development bill. Korsmo pointed out that this was just one example of the skyrocketing number of federal earmarks, which climbed from 2749 in 1996 to 15,877 in 2005.

While the smattering of people attending the press conference seemed sympathetic to the cause, several were skeptical of including the Firehouse in the same breath as such questionable pet projects as the $1.7 million "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska ($223 million); the study of shiitake mushroom cultivation in Missouri ($1.7 million); and the grant to "Keep Terrorism Out of Bingo Halls" in Kentucky ($36,300). Said one observer afterwards about extinguishing runaway spending by turning the hoses on the Firehouse: "Smart idea - stupid example."



WHEN: Friday, May 19

WHERE: Laura Bush fundraiser for Martha Rainville, Inn at Essex

WHO: Vermont Says No to War

THEIR BEEF: The Bush presidency, the Iraq War, etc.

Torrential rains didn't dampen the cheers, or jeers, of some 100 soggy demonstrators who marched May 19 outside the Inn at Essex to protest the arrival of Laura Bush. The First Lady was in Vermont as part of a big-ticket fundraiser for Republican congressional hopeful Martha Rainville. Tickets for the GOP shindig ranged in price from the economy-class luncheon, at $200 per couple, to the platinum-club meet-and-greet, at $5000 per couple.

The protesters, some of whom traveled from as far away as Hardwick, Greensboro and Rutland, carried waterlogged signs that read, "Impeach," "Axis of Arrogance, Deceit and Perfidy" and "The Right lie, the poor die." Among them were several combat veterans who oppose the war in Iraq, including 87-year-old Ed Everts of Charlotte, who served five years in the Pacific during World War II. Calling Rainville "flip-floppy on a number of issues," Everts said he thinks "military people should stick to the military."

The protest was peaceful, orderly and largely uneventful. However, as Mrs. Bush's motorcade sped past, one protester with the parody group "Billionaires for Bush" stepped off the curb to display his sign that read, "Liberate the corporations - Tax the poor," and was promptly thrown to the ground by police. The protester, Brendan O'Neill of Burlington, wasn't injured but was later cited for disorderly conduct. He said that he'd have to "talk to Laura and see what we can do about this."