Top 10, No. 2: Vermonters raise their voices in protest
Reflecting what seems to be a broader consensus nationwide that it is OK — even necessary — for people to come out, wave placards with clever and pointed statements, and raise their voices, Addison County residents seemed to be out protesting a lot more in 2017.
Some trace the reason for this apparent uptick in civil demonstrations here back to the man whom Addison County voters overwhelmingly defeated in the 2016 presidential election, but who won the electoral college vote. Following the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, hundreds of Addison County residents took to the streets in protest, both in Washington, D.C., and in Montpelier, many sporting pink “pussy hats” specially knitted for the occasion. Two busloads took local men, women and children to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington.
Other area citizens joined the Women’s March on Montpelier, including Middlebury Union High School student Greta Hardy-Mittell, who became internet famous when she recited her poem “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Cry” to the 15,000-20,000 protesters gathered in front of our state capitol.
It didn’t take long before crowds appeared on local streets. A week after the inauguration, Trump issued an order suspending entry into the United State to people from a number of predominantly Muslim countries. A crowd of more than 500 students, faculty, staff and community members assembled outside Middlebury College’s McCullough Student Center on Feb. 2 for a rally supporting refugees and denouncing the recent travel ban. The ban struck close to home as Middlebury President Laurie Patton reported the college had four enrolled students who were citizens of the countries on Trump’s list.
College professor Ata Anzali and his family were living in his native Iran during a sabbatical, but despite his being a permanent U.S. resident, he feared they may not be able to return once the ban became official, so the family of four rushed back to their home in Weybridge with only a few days preparation.
Congregational Church of Middlebury pastor Andy Nagy-Benson and Havurah member Emily Joselson responded by organizing a forum at which Muslim townspersons could speak about their experiences that grew into a series of community conversations throughout the year.
Just a month later, Middlebury College was thrown into even greater turmoil when protests erupted over the appearance of right-wing speaker Charles Murray on campus. He was shouted down and, regrettably, his party was jostled by protestors (Read more in our No. 8 story of the year).
A coyote hunt scheduled for the second week in February in Bristol drew heated criticisms and a day of protest from people who objected to the indiscriminant killing of coyotes.
Lincoln resident Mari Cordes took a whirlwind, three-day trip to our nation’s capital in late June to join protests over the proposed Congressional repeal of Obamacare. Cordes, a nurse and longtime activist, joined dozens of other protestors in an act of civil disobedience at the Russell Senate Office Building in D.C., which is headquarters to many U.S. senators. After giving their view on the repeal, they began chanting and eventually sat down in the hall with their arms locked. Eventually Cordes and some others were jailed.
Protests of a quieter form took place when a Vergennes man of Mexican birth was threatened with deportation in early July. He won a reprieve, at least temporarily.
In mid-August, about 100 protesters gathered in Middlebury to express solidarity with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., where self-proclaimed white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched (and drew almost no criticism from Trump). Locally, already inflamed sensibilities were further aggravated by displays of Confederate flags outside two Middlebury homes and in Vergennes.
Officials responded to the issue of racism and bigotry in all its forms. Addison Central School District created a task force to recommend ways of creating a more racially sensitive environment in its schools following incidents among students. In Vergennes, the city council adopted a resolution supporting inclusivity, tolerance and universal rights, and rejecting hatred.
During the playing of the national anthem at a Middlebury College football game in October, two African American players — Ian Blow and Diego Meritus — kneeled in a move in sympathy with NFL players who had been kneeling during the anthem for a year to draw attention to racial disparities in policing, and to the number of unarmed black men killed by police officers.
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