In The News - Rights and Democracy

As GOP Attacks Health Care, Movement for Single-Payer Grows Across Country

Participants in the Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles California on February 4, 2017. Organizers called for a single-payer system for Medicare. (Photo: Ronen Tivony / NurPhoto via Getty Images)Participants in the Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles, California on February 4, 2017. Organizers called for a single-payer system. (Photo: Ronen Tivony / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This piece is part of Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All, a Truthout original series. By Michael Corcoran

As Republicans seek to throw millions of Americans off insurance this week, progressives are, once again, playing defense. Activists are going full bore to stop the Cassidy-Graham bill, which is opposed by virtually every health organization of significance. The legislation, which grows more contemptible with each passing day, would lead to about 41,600 deaths a year, according to a report released yesterday by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We cannot be silent while Congress plays political games with the lives of our patients," said Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), in a statement sent to Truthout.


The Damage Done: The Consequences of Shumlin's Surrender in Vermont

Critics of single-payer in the media repeatedly point to its so-called "failure" in Vermont as a reason why proposals can't work. Vermont made major progress on a single-payer bill in 2010 but Gov. Peter Shumlin abandoned the effort in 2014, controversially citing costs -- and not political obstacles -- as the reason.

Shumlin added to this narrative last week as he once again defended his 2014 decision to abandon single-payer. As the Cornell Policy Review points out, three state-commissioned studies concluded that the proposal would be "economically feasible" but was "scuttled by political barriers and poor management."

"Single-payer didn't fail in Vermont," said Jessica Early, a health care justice organizer for Rights and Democracy Vermont. "We never had single-payer because politicians did not have the political will to follow through on it."

Indeed, what happened in Vermont was not a failure of policy, but of politics. With a once-supportive governor and an impressive grassroots campaign, the state passed Act 48. This initial structure was based on designs drawn up by Hsaio, the creator of the Taiwan's system, who was commissioned by the state for this purpose. He concluded that a single-payer payer system could "immediately produce" savings of 8 to12 percent and then 12 to14 percent over time.

However, on the heels of a close election, Shumlin and other top Democrats lost the courage to follow through, giving fodder to critics ever since. "The way Shumlin handled it, he really set the whole movement back nationally," Friedman said.

What happened in Vermont was not a failure of policy, but of politics.

"This surrender is all the more remarkable because the Green Mountain People's Republic is the ideal socialist laboratory," observed The Wall Street Journal in an editorial celebrating the death of reform in Vermont. Yet this reading of the situation grossly misrepresents what happened, as PNHP founders Steffie Woolhander and David Himmelstien concluded in a report. It notes that Shumlin took cover by citing an inherently flawed economic analysis of the plan which counted costs, but not savings. "The report by his staff estimated zero administrative savings from its proposed plan. It also projected zero savings on drugs and medical devices," Woolhander and Himmelstein said.

Vermont's Next Fight: Primary Care for All

Deb Richter, former president of PNHP and one of Vermont's leading health care advocates, recognizes that, in the aftermath of the demise of Green Mountain Care, a new approach must be taken. Her idea is to push for a narrower first step: universal primary care. Richter's hope is that this plan would be enacted with a long-term goal of reaching other sectors until, in time, every sector will be financed publicly. This is similar to how the Canadian universal health system was created. 

"I wish we could pass a bill to finance single-payer tomorrow, but this is not the reality we face," Richter said in an interview. "This is another way forward. All of us need primary care whether we are sick or healthy."

The costs lack the "sticker shock" of single-payer, costing Vermonters less than $50 each annually in new spending, according to a study commissioned by the state legislature at Richter's urging. It has the support of much of the Vermont grassroots, including Rights and Democracy, while the Vermont Workers' Center has expressed qualified support "insofar as [the policy] is financed fully and equitably through progressive taxes." 

 Richter is hoping the bill will be introduced in 2018, although many fear Gov. Phil Scott will veto the law, should it get that far.

Vermonters are paying the "tax" of rising health insurance premiums, which is eating into their household budgets.

When asked if Scott would veto the bill, his chief of staff, Jason Gibbs, told Truthout that the administration's goal is "achieving universally affordable health care for every Vermonter in ways that reduce the percent of household income spent on care and insurance, without raising the percent of household income spent on taxes."

The goal of providing care that would cost less and not result in any new taxes is a rather ambitious goal, especially given that Gibbs added that Vermont "cannot afford to experiment with ideas that are not mathematically verified to be the best path to universally affordable comprehensive care." Not being open to new taxes -- even if they reduce costs overall -- indicates a lack of interest in shifting toward any kind of public health care.

"Vermonters are paying the 'tax' of rising health insurance premiums, which is eating into their household budgets," Richter told Truthout in response to Gibbs' comment. She notes the administration's criteria would rule out most Republican staples, such as high-risk pools, managed care and health savings accounts.

"All of these have been tried and have not been shown to reduce system costs," she said.


Read the full story at Truthout

Thousands of Bernies? Progressive Groups Aim to Build a Majority From the Bottom Up

A Bernie Sanders rally at Penn State prior to the Pennsylvania primary election, April 19, 2016.A Bernie Sanders rally at Penn State prior to the Pennsylvania primary election, April 19, 2016. (Photo: Paul Weaver / Flickr)

By Michael Corcoran

Anna Callahan is an organizer with infectious energy and an unceasing desire to act. The Berkeley resident was so motivated by Bernie Sanders's presidential run in 2016 that she quit her job and volunteered for the campaign full-time. Since the campaign ended, she got a tattoo of Sanders's iconic hair and glasses and has continued to fight for his agenda -- this time from the bottom up.

Our goal is to create thousands of Bernie Sanders and fill all levels of government with incorruptible service leaders who represent the needs of the 99 percent.

Callahan, who is speaking about this approach at the Democracy Convention this week, recently co-founded a new group called the "Incorruptibles," which aims to build a progressive base in cities and towns across the nation to help run candidates for local offices: in state houses, city councils, planning commissions, select boards and more. "There is only one Bernie Sanders," she told Truthout. "Our goal is to create thousands of Bernie Sanders and fill all levels of government with incorruptible service leaders who represent the needs of the 99 percent." 

The Incorruptibles, which hopes to focus on base building in local chapters so there is a permanent infrastructure of support for candidates in each area, is just one of many organizations that have sprung up since the Sanders campaign to embrace the "down-ticket strategy." The idea is that by starting off with local offices, over time a generation of like-minded politicians who seek to fight for the people, instead of for the ownership class, will emerge up the ballot as well.

"We think that by putting progressives at the bottom of the ticket, and training and organizing a strong base of support, over time it can have a positive impact up the ticket," said Callahan, director of the Incorruptibles. "As we organize and train activists, we will win with more frequency."

The most recognizable organization of this kind is probably Our Revolution, launched by Sanders himself in August 2016. Our Revolution has already endorsed 16 victorious candidates for a variety of elections at the local level in 2017. Other groups that have formed since the Sanders campaign include Brand New Congress (BNC) and Justice Democrats, which are allied in their efforts "to recruit and run dozens of outstanding candidates in a single, national campaign for Congress in 2018." Another organization, #WeWillReplaceYou, is specifically targeting corporate Democrats. It asks supporters to take the "primary pledge" and help challenge Democrats who are not steadfast in their opposition to Trump and the regressive GOP agenda. Some of these groups, like the Incorruptibles, have local chapters. There are also independent local groups and citizens who emphasize the down-ticket strategy in their regions.

In addition to trying to build a progressive majority in the future, such actions can have short-term benefits in efforts to curb the Republicans' record domination of state legislatures across the country: Republicans now control 68 of 99 legislative bodies (and both chambers in 31 states). This has generated excitement from mainstream Democratic Party organizations focused on the state level, which have praised the influx of progressive electoral energy.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) "is excited to see a renewed focus on down-ballot races from Democrats and progressives ... this focus and energy is finding form in groups newly active in the state legislative space," said Jessica Post of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. "DLCC is pleased to welcome these groups as new weapons in our arsenal ... in our fight to flip state legislatures and build Democratic power in states."


Successes of the Down-Ticket Strategy

One recent success story has advocates excited. Ali Dieng, born in Mauritania and raised in Senegal, pulled off a victory in a special election in June for a seat in the city council in the typically conservative New North End district in Burlington, Vermont (which is also the district where Bernie and Jane Sanders live). Dieng was a fusion candidate, running as both a Democrat and a member of the Progressive Party, one of the few successful third parties in the country. After building a strong coalition including members of both parties, he had a decisive victory and became the only non-white member of the council and the second new American (he came to the US in 2007) to serve on the body.

Dieng, whose campaign emphasized access to child care, transportation, affordable housing and increased participation in the political process, was endorsed by Our Revolution and a local organization, Rights and Democracy (RAD), which advocates for a number of candidates and social justice issues in Vermont and New Hampshire. Isaac Grimm, political engagement director of RAD, spoke about how the group found solidarity and enthusiasm in backing Dieng.

"When we started the organization ... we had conversations about what kind of movement we needed to build and what people saw in themselves as their role in this movement," Grimm told Truthout. "Ali [Dieng] was one of the first people who said he could imagine running as a grassroots candidate and then actually stepped up and did it."

Grimm emphasized the need to listen to the concerns of voters, and to engage with them personally through strategies like knocking on doors. "[This] is exactly the formula we need to have the people's movement take power in this country: a multiracial, multigenerational, people's platform of issues and aligned with the political revolution that Bernie's campaign inspired," he said.

Callahan also views these approaches as vital. "Eighty percent of organizing is listening," she said. "And knocking on every door you possibly can, not just among ones deemed as 'likely voters.' We need to connect with everybody."

For the full story, visit Truthout

An Inside Account of How Direct Action Helped Kill the GOP Healthcare Bill

Protesters occupied Senate offices and took arrest to stop the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

An Inside Account of How Direct Action Helped Kill the GOP Healthcare Bill

Mari Cordes is a nurse, organizer and House candidate who was arrested multiple times in Washington, D.C. protesting the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill.

By Sarah Jaffe

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. Since election night 2016, the streets of the United States have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this series, we'll be talking with experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers. They'll be sharing their insights on what works, what doesn't, and what has changed, and what’s still the same.

Mari Cordes: My name is Mari Cordes. I am a registered nurse of thirty years, all in Vermont. I am a founding board member of Rights and Democracy.

Sarah Jaffe: You were in Washington, D.C., on Thursday when the vote went down for healthcare reform, right?

MC: I have been here since Thursday as a candidate. I am running for the Vermont House of Representatives again in 2018 and I am here for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s national candidate training. I was selected as one of 300 candidates to attend this amazing training which coincided with more actions by the Center for Popular Democracy and Housing Works in the Senate offices, in the Capitol and at Senators’ offices. I was part of the protest and the rally outside of the Capitol building the night the vote came down.

SJ: Tell us a little bit about what that was like, while you were waiting to hear about the vote.

MC: It was an amazing experience to hear, once again, many stories of how everyone would have been impacted by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and already how we are already impacted by our elected leaders intentionally doing something that equates to attacking the American people.

We heard so many incredible, painful and heartbreaking stories about friends, people that we know, people that we don’t know who would have died and families that would have lost their homes or gone bankrupt. All this in the name of an obsession with an ideology, an obsession with a hatred that a black man was president of the United States and was successful in creating policy that was definitely not perfect, but did help millions of people. It was very powerful to be in that circle and hold a vigil for our country whatever the outcome is going to be.

There was a moment we thought “We are going to lose”—that feeling of hopelessness and despair. Then, a pause and a quiet moment. Ben Wikler delivered the news beautifully. He became really somber. I thought it meant that we had lost, but it created this silent space for us to hear the statement that the vote was “No.” I don’t think I have ever experienced anything so powerful in my life. It was incredible.

Read the full story at In These Times

Resist & Rebuild Summit (MyNBC5)


More than 100 people gathered at Montpelier High School Saturday for the Resist and Rebuild Summit.

It was held by the Central Vermont Citizen Action Network to connect Vermonters who want to work for change with various organizations across the state.

"There are organizations focused on Vermont policy and budgets and there are organizations focused on federal action and really the point is that this needs to become a movement for change, a movement to protest our democracy a movement to hold our legislators and our governor accountable," Sue Minter, former gubernatorial candidate and Network member, said.

The summit featured panel discussions and workshops on a broad range of topics, from the environment to criminal justice reform and gender equality.

Everything here had one common theme: how they can work together to create the type of state and democracy that they want.

"It's the coming together of all the different issue to see where we can work together to become more coordinated in our efforts because we are in a time right now where everyone needs to work together," attendee Rick Barstow said.

"It really talks about the intersectionality of all these different issues, that no one movement can work by itself," Karin Waquar, a member of Muslim Girls Making Change, said.

"I think it's important to work together locally during these difficult times. We have a national government that doesn't care about facts, is not interested in science," attendee Eric Bachman said.

The goal was also to capitalize off the momentum from countless nationwide protests drawing record crowds.

"What I know is people are anxious people are scared and I know that the best way to deal with that is to take action," Minter said.

As Activism Under Trump Draws First-Timers, Organizers Look To Keep Momentum

In the three months since President Donald Trump's inauguration, some advocacy groups have seen an uptick in people who want to get involved in their organizations. The groups say that the next step is keeping those people involved in social activism. 

Last Saturday, despite the cold, grey skies and a persistent drizzle of rain, nearly 2,000 people joined the Burlington March for Science.

The rally – one of several in the state – was held in conjunction with marches around the world. The point was to celebrate the role of science the world and to protest the Trump administration's possible cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and research funding.

People held signs with slogans like "May the facts be with you" and "Stop Truth Decay."

Sam Clark said it was his first protest.

“I was out running errands and then I saw this, and it was a cause I agreed with, and so just decide to join,” Clark said.

Clark isn't the only one join a protest or a march for the first time. 

James Haslam, executive director of the advocacy group Rights and Democracy, said ever since the election, way more people want to get involved.

“The more people we can get involved to work together to create change, the more likely we're going to succeed,” Haslam said.

“I think the potential for burnout is actually less when there is a continual threat to the things that you hold dear." — Rory McVeigh, University of Notre Dame

He said the next step is to get people working at the local level — doing things like running for local office and helping with community outreach.

Haslam said they’re trying to find ways to involve everyone, whatever their interest, ability or capacity.  

“We have a lot of retirees and people that have time to come to meetings and be part of planning and [do] a lot of volunteer work in the movement, and then some people don't have a lot of time. Families, you know, are increasingly strapped for time, and they contribute in other ways,” Haslam said.

Full story from Vermont Public Radio here.

Advocates look to put Scott on the spot over health care

Health Care Rally
Protesters join the group Rights and Democracy at a health care rally Thursday at the Statehouse. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

By Mark Johnson |

Advocates for health care reform demanded Thursday that Gov. Phil Scott denounce the Republican health care plan being debated in Congress.

They said the proposal would result in thousands of Vermonters losing insurance coverage and cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Lawmakers in Washington are considering the GOP-led plan as part of action to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act signed into law seven years ago by then-President Barack Obama. The Republican plan would dismantle many parts of the ACA.

As of late Thursday, the plan was in danger of not passing the House as leaders scrambled for votes and called for a delay.


Brenda Siegel
Brenda Siegel, of Newfane, who lives with complex health conditions, speaks in favor of health care as a human right. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

At a Statehouse rally, speakers decried the proposed cutbacks and insisted the Republican governor “stand up” and speak out strongly against the GOP plan, which could cost Vermont $200 million a year in Medicaid funding. Under the plan, many less-well-off Americans would see their insurance costs increase, while many wealthy would pay less than today.

“This isn’t a health care bill,” said Brenda Patoine, an event organizer. “In fact, it would be more properly called a wealth care bill.”

At an afternoon news conference, Scott said he has been clear in denouncing the Republican plan.

The plan “as written would be devastating for Vermont. It would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands would be without insurance,” Scott said.

The governor said he had spoken directly to the White House about his concerns, as well as other governors “that might find themselves in the same situation we are in,” including ones in states with a similar expansion of Medicaid that Vermont had under Obamacare.

“We’re all concerned about what’s happening in Washington,” Scott said, adding that a special session of the Legislature might be needed if big cuts are made. He would not say if large cuts might make him rethink his pledge not to raise taxes; instead he encouraged Vermont lawmakers to pass a budget without any tax increases.

“We can only address what we know at this point,” he said.

Alan Ramsay
Dr. Allan Ramsay, a family doctor who formerly sat on the Green Mountain Care Board, speaks at Thursday’s rally. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

At the rally — organized by the advocacy group Rights and Democracy — family physician Dr. Allan Ramsay said losing insurance could lead to premature deaths as well as the postponement of early and preventive care.

Read the full story at

Vermont legislature considers paid family leave act


The Vermont House is considering a bill that would create mandatory paid family leave for employees.

“It was absolutely imperative that I was there for my child,” said Erin Stillson-Wolf, who was working in the food industry when she had her daughter, Lilli, 11 years ago.

“Paid time off, let alone time off to have a child, is just laughable, it's just not something that happens in that industry at all,” she continued.

Stillson-Wolf had to quit and her family lived on a single income.

“That meant $14,000 a year to live, which was a huge sacrifice, but it was either live in extreme poverty or not be there for my child in her first few weeks of life,” Stillson-Wolf said.

Three years ago, she made that same decision when her son was born. Now she's supporting a bill that would create a family leave insurance program to give employees 12 weeks paid family leave.


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BFP - Women's March demonstrators discuss movement's future

Screenshot_2017-01-24_23.40.22.png Police estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people came to Montpelier to participate in a nation-wide women's march on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, closing two exits on Interstate 89 after traffic backed up for miles as people poured into Vermont's capital. GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS

Katie McCarty, one of the organizers of the Women's March on Montpelier, watched in amazement in the week leading up to the Saturday rally as Facebook responses skyrocketed.

Now the movement's leaders are discussing how to harness that energy going forward.

"The RSVPs flooded in that final week after all the press came out," McCarty said Monday. "It was going up a thousand people a day: four thousand, five thousand, six thousand. On the morning of the march it was seven thousand RSVPs."

McCarty's volunteer web designer sent heran email Friday night saying the site had received 15,000 hits, crashing the website.

"That's when we realized it was going to be huge," said McCarty, development director for the group Rights and Democracy. "There was nothing we could do at that point."

The Vermont Women's March Unity Rally, as the event also was known, drew 15,000 to 20,000 people Saturday, temporarily shutting down three exits on Interstate 89 and filling the lawn, street and steps in front of the Statehouse with a sea of people of all ages and backgrounds. The march was one of dozens nationwide that together attracted millions of people. More rallies took place around the world.



"It was significant on so many levels, particularly just the significance of marching for women's rights but also marching in unity with other communities under increased threat from the policies and rhetoric of the incoming (Trump) administration," McCarty said.

McCarty hopes to turn the response the rally generated into an ongoing movement. She said Rights and Democracy reached out to 180 other organizations across the state working for social and economic justice in the run-up to the march.

"Now we've built this coalition of organizations and individuals doing this work," McCarty said. "That's incredibly powerful, especially in Vermont. We've already talked about the next step, reunifying as a team and building our platform moving forward."

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

Ebony Nyoni, co-founder and president of Black Lives Matter VT, was one of the speakers at Saturday's rally.

"It was certainly wonderful to see so many people come out towards a shared cause or causes," Nyoni said Monday. "It was just great energy."

Nyoni said she is trying to build a sustainable base for her organization, with a goal of eventually having 5,000 members across the state. Black Lives Matter VT currently has 400 members.

"Basically we're organized and mobilized to make the experiences of people of color in Vermont more tolerable by addressing issues of racism, whether it be systemic, environmental or on a community level," Nyoni said.

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches duringA crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

The organization is opening a coffee shop in Winooski on Feb. 11, called Shop 4 Change, that will offer Equal Exchange Coffee and pastries from different cultures.

"It's going to be really cool," Nyoni said. "Everything is organic. Everything is Fair Trade."

Nyoni said 100 percent of the proceeds from the coffee shop will go toward sustaining Black Lives Matter VT.

Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam was another of the speakers at Saturday's event. Haslam is the Burlington School District's K-12 equity and inclusion instructional leader.

"That basically means I get to provide direct support to teachers with regard to equity and inclusion in their instruction," Haslam said.

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

Haslam said Monday she was given about three minutes to address the enormous crowd in Montpelier. Toward the end of her speech, she addressed the impact of the presidential election on students and families.

"What I can tell you is every day teachers have to mitigate the results of the election," Haslam said. "Children are hearing hateful rhetoric ... and bring that experience into school conversations."

Haslam sees Saturday's march as a "call to action" to change in the current political and social atmosphere. Katie McCarty agrees.

"These are daunting times, but I've never felt more powerful than right now, living in this state," McCarty said. "As an organizer, we've seen people who have never engaged in activism coming out and saying, 'I have to do something.'"

VTDigger - Women's March Overwhelms Montpelier

JAN. 21, 2017, 11:22 PM BY  

Women's March

Thousands rallied in Montpelier for the march, held in concert with hundreds of other events around the country. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

Asea of homemade political placards and pink knitted hats flooded Montpelier Saturday as demonstrators overwhelmed the capital to protest the policies of President Donald Trump. 

The local Women’s March drew an estimated crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 to Montpelier, according to police, making it possibly the largest demonstration ever in the capital.

More than 500,000 protested in Washington, DC at a national event, and there were similar protests to Vermont attended by tens of thousands in cities across the country and globe.

As Vermonters descended on Montpelier from across the state, traffic backed up for miles, including on Interstate 89, where police closed several exits, including the entrances to Montpelier from both the north and south.

Crowds began gathering at Montpelier High School in the morning, eventually spilling out onto the street. They congregated at the Statehouse, the crowd so large it stretched across the street to the front of the Department of Motor Vehicles and clogged all of State Street, which was closed.

Homemade posters and placards mingled with cloth banners and intricate costumes.

Women's March

Students from Johnson State College at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Emily Peterson, 20, and Katherine Hirack, 18, classmates at Johnson State College, drove to the capital to support women’s rights.

“I think it’s really important to be involved, and history, herstory I should say, is happening right before our eyes,” Peterson said.

“We’ve progressed so far, there’s no way we can go back now,” Hirack said. She held a hand-painted sign on cardboard that read “I will not go quietly back into the 1950s.”

The march traveled a short distance — roughly two blocks — to the steps of the Statehouse.

Sue Grigg, 75, of Middlebury, stood on the sidewalk on State Street with her daughter and granddaughter. Throngs of marchers surged by, chanting “Love not hate, makes America great” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.

Grigg’s granddaughter, Emma Olmstead, 17, of East Montpelier, was also with two of her friends. It was the first time the three high school juniors had been at a protest. All three said they worry about the status of women.

“I see it in everyday lives where things aren’t equal, and there needs to be a change,” one said.

Griggs said she believes that women in the country are faring “better than before.” But she fears that women’s rights could be in peril with the changing political winds in Washington.

“I don’t want to see it slip back,” she said. “I want it to carry forward and I see a time where that’s in danger.”

Women's March

Nicole Nelson, of the band Dwight and Nicole, performs at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

As the tides of marchers arrived on the Statehouse lawn, the band Dwight and Nicole performed from the steps. Muslim Girls Making Change, slam poetry team of four Burlington teenagers, elicited a chorus of snaps, applause and cheers as they performed poems that touched on the experience of wearing a hijab, police brutality and more.

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin addressed the crowd, saying that the march called for many initiatives, including respect, equal pay, health care and more. In the next four years, she said, “We will be heard.”

In the wake of the election, some people are “discouraged and puzzled,” Kunin said. “The pendulum has swung so fast from Barack Obama to Donald Trump that we’ve got whiplash.”

“I assure you it will swing back again,” she said.

Ebony Nyoni, who founded Black Live Matter Vermont, raised disparities in pay, work opportunities and health care between white women and women of color.

She also pointed out that many white women in the country voted for Trump for president.

“We must not forget that the needs of women are as diverse as they are, and that our elevation, our freedom is tied up together and wrapped in one pretty bow,” Nyoni said.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Women’s March in Montpelier. Photo by Emily Greenberg/VTDigger

When Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., made an unscheduled appearance at the podium, the crowd erupted. The junior senator, who won more than 86 percent of the vote in the Democratic presidential primary last year, was the subject of more than a few placards at the rally.

“You know, I have been driving down the interstate for many years. But I have never seen traffic backed up the way it is today,” Sanders said. “And I have never seen more people here at the Statehouse than I’ve seen today.”

Sanders pledged resistance to the Trump administration on women’s rights, immigration issues, racial justice and more.

“Mr. Trump I’ve got bad news for you. You are not going to divide us up by gender, by race, by who we love,” Sanders said. “In fact, your bigotry and your ugliness are going to bring us together in a progressive movement.”

Women's March

The crowd reacts to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s surprise appearance at the Women’s March on Montpelier. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

A slew of other speakers took the microphone, including Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, representatives from Planned Parenthood and Migrant Justice, and more.

Montpelier police described the rally as peaceful and said there were no arrests. Though traffic in and around the city was congested in the early afternoon, it cleared up as the demonstration dispersed later on.

According to Cpl. David Kachajian, the department believed the crowd numbered as high as 20,000 — far exceeding the initial estimates of about 1,500 when the rally was first being organized he said.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a group like this,” he said.



ABC Local 22 - Vt. Lt. Gov. Zuckerman Hosts One of At Least 70 Rallies Across the Country to "Save Health Care"

At least 1,000 people met up to rally for health care rights at Burlington High School Sunday.

They joined those in about 70 other rallies around the nation, all focused on the fight to "save health care" in the United States.

A group from Plattsburgh gathered outside of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik's office. The North Country Republican voted this weekend in support of steps towards the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Burlington's event was hosted by Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman.

Representatives on behalf of Congressman Peter Welch and Senator Patrick Leahy also gave remarks, while Senator Bernie Sanders spoke via web stream. All three voted against actions to repeal Obamacare over the weekend.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Sanders addressed thousands at a "Save Health Care" rally in Michigan. Senator Sanders believes this message will resonate with a Republican congress.

"You just cannot throw 20 million people off of health insurance, raise the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, do away with very important patient protection. You just can't do that, unless you have another plan in its place, and I think more and more Republicans are beginning to understand that," said Sanders.

In Vermont., newly sworn in Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman hosted the Burlington rally, organized by Rights and Democracy.

"It's the people in this room, that are going to make sure here in Vermont, we can set the example for a whole country on both organizing, fighting for worker's rights, liveable wages, universal health care," said Zuckerman.


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