Multiple incidents have taken place at Vermont border crossings in the past week where people have been racially profiled and denied entrance. One woman and her family were denied after 4 hours of being questioned about their religion, views on Donald Trump, and after border agents took and searched her cell phone.
Join us in letting State and Federal employees know that we will not stand for blatant racial profiling, and unnecessary and unconstitutional questioning and searches.
CALL NOW: Please call the Vermont US Border Control offices to demand they stop the blatant racial profiling and should not enforce any orders which are clearly unconstitutional.
Phone Number for the Highgate Border Patrol Station in VT: 802-868-3361
Phone Number for the Derby Border Patrol Station in VT: 802-873-3489
Demand that Governor Phil Scott ensures our Border Patrol upholds the constitution and puts a stop to racial profiling by calling his office at 802-828-3333.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you got through.
I know that I am not the only parent right now who feels terrified about what the future holds. But, in my almost two decades as a community organizer I’ve never seen so many of us ready to take action.
When I founded Rights & Democracy, it was clear that we needed a multi-issue organization that worked with allies to connect all the issues and struggles of our communities. But who knew that all of our rights, across the board, would be under attack and our already deeply flawed democracy would be so threatened?
Thanks to so many of you, we are bursting at the seams with people wanting to do something. We need your help so we can have the capacity to meet our national political crisis head on.
With your help here’s what we are going to do:
MOBILIZE: Continue to support mass mobilizations working with individuals and partner groups like we have with the historic Women’s March and rallies against the Muslim Ban to show strong opposition to the attacks across the board from the Trump administration and Republican Congress.
ORGANIZE LOCALLY: As the saying goes, the best defense is a strong offense. We will continue pushing on a state and local level for key issues like raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, family and medical leave insurance, clean water systems, ending mass incarceration, ending the use of fossil fuels and expanding energy democracy.
BUILD & TRAIN LOCAL LEADERS: Roll out a new candidate pipeline so that we don’t have just one Bernie Sanders, but hundreds of Bernie Sanders’ starting at the local level. This spring we are developing a new candidate training program to dig into issue analysis and leadership skills for our members.
We always knew that it was critical to have a holistic and strategic approach that organizes our communities to take collection action around the policies and elections that impact us all. If we do not seriously and wholeheartedly turn our electoral and political process around, it will continue to threaten our communities, our ecosystems, and our future generations. Together, we can reshape these systems toward an agenda that benefits all people and the planet. But we need your help.
MOBILIZED: From Glossophobic to ‘Healthcare Activist’
(My “Healthcare Story”)
By Brenda Patoine
If you had told me two weeks ago that I would be telling my “healthcare story” before a standing-room-only auditorium of 1,000+ people and then again to the policy wonk at my U.S. Congressman’s office, I’d have told you that you were nuts. As in, bonkers.
Public speaking, you see, makes me sweat. And possibly vomit. Glossophobia, they call it. I just call it hell.
So you can imagine my response when a volunteer from RAD, Jessica Early, contacted me about speaking at the local rally in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ National Day of Action to Save Healthcare on Jan. 15. Thanks to my big fat facebook mouth, she had gotten wind of the fact that the only reason I have healthcare insurance today is because of the Affordable Care Act, and she wondered if I’d be willing to tell my story.
How could she know the very idea would send my stomach churning?
Once I stopped retching, I was left scratching my head. ”I don’t have a compelling healthcare story to tell,” I said. I was genuinely perplexed.
I told Jessica, nicely, that she had the wrong person for the job, that she should find a single mom with a sick kid, or a nice old man in danger of losing his Medicare. Or a veteran facing cancer treatment. Now that’s compelling, right?
But me? I’m just a single, self-employed science writer who lost her health insurance when she divorced her husband. Not very compelling, right?
My ex worked in healthcare, and had reallllly good insurance. I’d been self-employed since 1989, and he had always had good employer-based health insurance, so I had never had to think about it. With the divorce, that all changed. It was going to cost me four or five hundred dollars a month to continue my coverage -- not financially feasible for me at the time -- so I let it go. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly concerned about it. I’m fortunate to have good health. I’ve never had any significant health issues and I don’t get sick a lot, so I have never been a big “consumer” of healthcare services.
You know, the kind of person insurance companies love.
Despite my good health and underutilization of healthcare, I lived with this constant background anxiety around not having healthcare coverage. There was this ever-present nagging notion that I was just one slip on the ice away from financial ruin. You know what I mean?
So when the opportunity arose to get healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, I signed up -- somewhat begrudgingly. Obamacare, as the Republicans had nicknamed it, was not perfect, by any means. We all knew the insurance company lobbyists had practically written it to serve their own interests. That Big Pharma was still going to gouge us on drug prices. And then there was that penalty…ouch, did that hurt for people like me who were facing it as a reality.
After a contentious election cycle, which saw a man with a history of verbally and physically attacking women become our president-elect, women came together to organize a march on our nation's capital to stand united and strong for the rights of women, their allies, and marginalized communities across the country. Since November, thousands of sister marches were organized world-wide to show solidarity with those marching on Washington and to lift up this message in their own communities. What started as a March on Washington D.C grew into the biggest global day of action in history with 673 Sister Marches and 4,876,700 marchers worldwide.
This past Saturday, we made history right here in Vermont. While sister marches across the world surpassed all expectations, it was amazing to see 20,000 people - 1 in every 31 Vermonters - in the streets (or stuck on the highway), embracing each other, laughing, crying, chanting, and singing. The energy in the air was truly electric.
The Women’s March on Montpelier started as a Facebook page. When a group of women met to begin organizing a Unity Rally for January 21st at the Statehouse, they discovered the page and joined forces with the march organizers. A dedicated group of dozens of individuals emerged ranging from seasoned activists to first-time organizers working to bring Vermonters of all backgrounds together for parity, equity, dignity, and justice for all women. The number of RSVP’s steadily grew by the thousands in the days leading up to the march. In the end it was not only the biggest rally Montpelier had ever seen, but it was perhaps proportionally the largest rally in the country. Having 20,000 people jam into a city with the population of 7,800 is like having a rally of over 10 million people in a city like Boston or L.A.
We are not only blown away by the historic turnout that shut down three exits on the highway. The energy the entire day and sense of solidarity was tangible.
Our amazing line up of speakers addressed our nation's many intersecting issues, ranging from women's reproductive rights, to LGBTQ rights, racial justice, the rights of migrant workers, the Muslim community, indigenous sovereignty, education, healthcare, workers' rights, and much more.
Thank you to all of our speakers and performers for a powerful celebration of work being done and energizing us for the fight ahead: Muslim Girls Making Change; Meagan Gallagher, President of Vermont Planned Parenthood Action Fund; Representative Kiah Morris, Bennington; Linda Quinlan, Rainbow Umbrella Central VT; Madeleine Kunin, former Governor of Vermont; Ebony Nyoni, Founder and Director of Black Lives Matter VT; Mary Gerisch, former Human Rights lawyer, water & Indigenous People’s Rights Advocate; Wilmar Santiz, Migrant Justice; Lt. Governor David Zuckerman; Poem by Greta Hardy-Mittell, “Don’t Tell Me I Can't Cry"; Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam, 2015 Vermont Teacher of Year; Sue Minter, former Vermont Gubernatorial Candidate; and Senator Bernie Sanders, our surprise guest. Dwight & Nicole, thank you for the music.
While we must reject the rhetoric of the president elect and resist the disastrous policies of the new administration, we recognize that the new president-elect is not the cause - he is a symptom. Marginalization of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, indigenous people, migrant farm workers, and the working class did not begin with the election, but has added a strong sense of urgency for folks in our communities that will be under increased threat.
We will be tested in the weeks and months to come. The fight for equality will depend on our commitment to stand by each other, and our commitment to motivate and inspire one another to stand up each and every day. Rights & Democracy would be honored if you would join us in continuing to keep this momentum going. If you have ideas on how build in your own community, want to talk or meet with one our organizers, attend another amazing event, or create a local organizing team, please reach out to us. You can also stay connected by simply liking our facebook page, signing a petition on our website, or making a donation to help us cover the costs of organizing this historic day.
The silver lining of the political mess our country is in right now is that it has brought us together in ways we’ve never been before. Increasingly people are realizing that our struggles are interconnected and our movement must be indivisible. Rights & Democracy is committed to working with all of the groups and individuals who built this historic event to work together in coalition to tackle the challenges ahead.
What happens next is up to all of us. We hope you will join us.
Since the start of the new Congressional session, the Republicans in Washington, DC have been very busy. They are working frantically to pass a budget that could take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans, privatize Medicare, make massive cuts to Medicaid, and defund Planned Parenthood. All of this will endanger America’s seniors, people with disabilities, nursing home residents, the middle class, and low-income families.
Here in Vermont, we have been busy, too. This past Sunday, on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more than 1,000 Vermonters turned out to a rally to “Save Health Care” from this Republican assault. Joining the tens of thousands of Americans attending solidarity rallies across the country, these Vermonters made a loud and clear declaration: protecting and promoting the health of all people in this state is an urgent priority.
It seems, however, that the Vermont GOP disagrees. In response, to our new Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman’s participation in the rally, Vermont’s Republicans put out a statement urging “Zuckerman to immediately shift his focus from Washington D.C. to right here in Vermont.” (http://vtgop.org/vt-republicans-statement-on-lt-governor-zuckermans-political-rally/)
Apparently, the Vermont GOP thinks the health and well-being of thousands of Vermonters is an “inside the Beltway” issue. This may come as a shock not only to Sunday’s rally attendees, but also to the 35,000 Vermonters who could lose their health insurance and the 13,000 Vermonters who could lose newly gained Medicaid coverage if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed. The thousands of Vermonters with preexisting conditions who could pay higher insurance premiums, and potentially be denied coverage without the ACA, might also disagree with the state GOP. Finally, Vermont’s taxpayers facing a statewide loss of $2.9 billion in federal funding over the next decade and increased “uncompensated care costs” might be baffled by Vermont Republicans’ lack of immediate action in response to these national threats by their own party. (Please see the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ analysis of the effects of ACA repeal in Vermont http://www.cbpp.org/.../12-7-16health-factsheets-vt.pdf)
Since November 8, there has been endless soul searching and debate on the left and in the Democratic Party about what went wrong in the presidential election. The post-mortems continue in the blogosphere, on countless Facebook pages, and in thousands of one-on-one discussions. Meanwhile, the victorious Republicans are moving ahead fast with a clearly defined 2017 agenda, and the Congressional majorities and new administration necessary to implement it.
How to respond to that upcoming threat is now a more pressing question than “what went wrong” last fall. Fortunately for the left—often plagued by infighting over priorities, ideology, and tactics—Republicans in the new Congress and the Trump administration are providing the answer for us. In the face of an all-out assault on the social infrastructure that has supported poor, working, and middle class Americans for over fifty years, our task is clear. We must unify across organizations—social and racial justice, environmental, labor, faith, and civil rights—to resist and offer an alternative to the Republican agenda of deregulation, privatization, corporate welfare, xenophobia, and racism.
Republican Congressional leaders and President-elect Trump have identified health care as a majority priority. Trump’s proposed Health and Human Services Secretary—House member Tom Price—and other Capitol Hill foes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan to resurrect House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2011 plan for a Medicare voucher system and other proposals to restructure Medicaid, repeal the ACA, and privatize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
If successful, these efforts will jeopardize health care coverage for millions of Americans—disproportionately seniors, people of color, single parents, veterans, disability insurance beneficiaries, lower income workers, and the unemployed. Moreover, the Republican plan will put even more of the funding burden for social safety net programs onto already overstretched state budgets.
(See http://khn.org/news/millions-could-lose-medicaid-coverage-under-trump-plan/ for projections about the impact of this policy shift.)Read more
This past Wednesday, January 4th, a diverse coalition of advocacy and activist organizations came together to present a People's Agenda on the first day of the 2017 Vermont Legislature. At the same time, our allies in NH were rallying outside their statehouse in Concord.
Participating organizations included 350VT, Black Lives Matter VT, the Coalition of Vermont Elders, Disability Rights Vermont, Green Mountain Labor Council - AFL-CIO, Green Mountain Self Advocates, Justice for All, Lake Champlain International, Peace & Justice Center, Public Assets Institute, Rainbow Umbrella of Central Vermont, SEIU Local 200United, Sierra Club - Vermont Chapter, Vermont Center For Independent Living, Vermont Interfaith Action, Vermont Raise the Wage Coalition, Vermont Workers Center, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, and Voices for Vermont's Children.
Over 80 leaders, legislators and community members gathered outside the statehouse at noon for a rally and press conference calling for dignified work and livable wages, dismantling systemic racism and oppression, building a just energy system that bans new fossil fuel infrastructure, healthcare for all, and creating a budget based on the actual needs of the people of Vermont.
Mari Cordes, longtime nurse union leader, 350VT Treasurer, and Rights & Democracy Board member, spoke first, saying "now is the time to stand strong for passing a $15 minimum wage, establishing statewide family and medical leave insurance, protecting our air and water, and ending racial disparities in Vermont's criminal justice system. It's time to stand strong for our children and families with a current services budget that increases funding for affordable housing and restores ReachUp benefits to people with disabilities, and it's time to defend our people from the national Republican attacks on Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security."
Lt. Governor Dave Zuckerman came outside and spoke on the need to carry the energy brought forward in the elections into pushing our legislators to do the right thing for our people and our environment, and on the need to treat each other with dignity and respect, despite the discouraging national discourse.
He was followed by incoming Senator Debbie Ingram and House Representative Selene Colburne.
Ebony Nyoni, co-founder of Black Lives Matter VT, spoke on the need to confront Vermont's racial disparities in criminal justice enforcement and incarceration.
Sarah Launderville from Vermonters for Independent Living spoke compellingly on the need to stand united for all our struggles.
Max Barrows of Green Mountain Self Advocates addressed the issues of exclusion of people with disabilities and the lack of a livable wage for service providers, calling for Vermont to enact a $15 minimum wage as soon as possible.
Charlie Delaney-Megeso, a Veteran Native rights activist and Nulhegan-Coosuk Abenaki, spoke on Abenaki issues within Vermont, solidarity with Standing Rock, and on the need to implement Indigenous People's Day as a permanent holiday in Vermont.
James Ehlers, director of Lake Champlain International, emphasized the need for investment in a clean water as a crucial part of moving our economy and community's relationship with the natural ecosystems on which we depend in a more sustainable direction.
Our People's Agenda is about protecting and expanding workers rights and unions, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and establishing statewide family & medical leave insurance; it's about protecting our health by protecting our air and water, divesting from fossil fuels and banning new fossil fuel infrastructure; it's about investing in the people of Vermont; it's about decarcerating Vermont & ending racial disparities in our criminal justice system; it's about standing up to dismantle systemic racism, sexism, homophobia & transphobia, and classism, and it's about developing grassroots leadership and running people for office from our communities.
The current political situation in D.C. is dire, yet we have hope because thousands of people in Vermont and millions across our country are organized and committed to true racial, social, economic and environmental justice. We must all continue to call on our elected leaders to be strong and principled for people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized, and our precious planet.
(cont. after the flip to read about the Public Forum: "Towards A People’s Agenda in Vermont")Read more
[Jeffrey Phillip Caesar is a leader of Rights & Democracy and lives in Burlington, VT. He recently returned from Standing Rock and is committed to bringing their struggle for Water Is Life to our communities]
Standing Rock: It Is Not Over
The inception of our country began with a war on Indigenous people. This war has continued both explicitly and implicitly in every shape and form imaginable. The significance of Standing Rock is tremendous on many levels. It is a real-time embodiment and cross-section of the historic pain brought to Indigenous people, alongside the contemporary issues that result. The international and domestic community has met the fight to protect our Nation’s waters with gripping support, as the Lakota-Sioux people are beyond reproach in their efforts, and everybody knows it.
The tacit backing by the Army Corps of Engineers and state support of Energy Transfer Partners development of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a symptom of historical violence towards Natives. It is met with complete disregard of the land, sacred culture, perspective and voice of those who truly founded THIS COUNTRY. The removal of indigenous peoples from ancestral land through Government action, the intentional sterilization and genocide of Native populations, the pandemic acceptance of overt racism towards Native Americans throughout the centuries continues today - In 2016…. No red blooded American can look in good consciousness towards Standing Rock, North Dakota and deny this fact.
Let’s be clear about something: We have NOT won. Do not become complacent by the Army Corps of Engineers denial of Dakota Access Pipeline Line permit. This is an intentional ploy to mislead you. This is not a conspiracy theory, this is a common practice of the fossil fuel industry when met with opposition. DAPL will continue to drill once the outcry subsides.
I urge everyone to make it a priority to place the voice of the indigenous peoples at the front of all that we do moving forward. The existing “Democratic” establishment willfully ignores those who make it’s power possible. We can not build a truly progressive and inclusive society by ignoring the voice and the plight of Indigenous Americans.
- Jeffrey P. Caesar
Donate - For donation please see website for updated lists: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate
Standing Rock - Oceti Sakowin Website: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/
Oceti Sakowin Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OcetiSakowinCamp/
You may have noticed since the launch of Rights & Democracy we have always managed to feature a flock of geese on our posters. We pride ourselves on putting out graphics and art that represents the beauty, energy and excitement about the movement we are trying to build for people and the planet. But you may be one of the number of people who have asked the question, “What’s with the geese?” over the course of our first year. Well, we saved the answer for our First Annual Membership Assembly held this past Saturday, December 10th in Lebanon, NH (See post about the assembly here, and see new board member Mary Gerisch’s blog post on the significance of Human Rights Day here).
I have always had deep reverence for geese as for thousands of years they have been making their annual migrations across the globe. In addition to being beautifully graceful animals, after watching a documentary detailing their amazing annual trips I have always marvelled at their perseverance and teamwork. Being in New England, it is also awe inspiring to see them fly overhead sometimes in the hundreds (which they call a gaggle). Years ago I saw a presentation about the lessons of geese, and we adapted them to a poster that we released at the Assembly called “Movement Lessons From Geese.”
When introducing these new beautiful posters, I chose to read one lesson in particular that seemed special for the occasion of recognizing the work of our founding chair Michelle Salvador, who was taking a step back after playing a key role in RAD’s launch. She was able to pass the torch to new co-chairs Sylvia Gale (NH) and Brittany Nevins (VT). Along with the Sheila Reed (VT) and Janice Kelble (NH), the new co-chairs for the Rights & Democracy Education Fund, they will step up to lead this new grassroots power building formation.
Here is “Lesson # 4 - Empowering Everyone To Lead: When the lead goose in the front gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and allows another goose to take the leadership position.
LESSON: We are all leaders and have the capacity for greatness. Micro-managing and keeping tight control will demotivate people, while stifling creativity and growth. It will also burn out everyone. We all have unique skills, capabilities, and gifts to offer. When we all have the trust and a chance to shine, we will be surprised with the collective outcome.”