Hundreds rally in Montpelier for May Day labor event

About 500 people gathered on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier on Tuesday to celebrate workers rights. Photo by Kate Robinson

About 500 people gathered on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier on Tuesday to celebrate workers rights. Photo by Kate Robinson

In a gathering reminiscent of the Occupy movement that swept the nation last summer, Vermont’s unions, rights groups and other liberal activists gathered in Montpelier Tuesday for a May Day rally.

The rally, organized by the Vermont Workers’ Center, kicked off at Montpelier’s City Hall and police closed off Main Street and State Street as the crowd of around 500 marched to the Statehouse.

Speakers from a variety of causes spoke out from the steps of the Statehouse into the sea of red signs that read “Put People First.” Activists took the microphone to talk about health care, environmental conservation, student debt relief, migrant workers’ rights and early educators’ rights.

Speakers called for increased government assistance with education, child care, health care and land preservation for Native American tribes – all “basic human rights,” according to the speakers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and environmental activist Bill McKibben also gave speeches at the event.

Sanders’ speech, in keeping with the spirit of the day, touched on a wide range of liberal issues, including health care, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the top 1 percent (drawing boos from the crowd), and the child-care workers union bill currently in the Statehouse.

After voicing his disgust with the top 1 percent of Americans, who he said take up most of the new income created in the U.S., Sanders commended the crowd for taking the democratic process into their own hands.

“What we are saying today is that that is not what America is about,” he said. “We do not want to continue having the dubious distinction of having the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth. We need to pass real tax reform and make sure that all people in this country can live in dignity and with justice.”

Sanders also brought up the “war on women” being waged in Washington right now, encouraging men to stand up as well.

“It is terribly important that at this key moment,” he said, “men stand with women and make sure that we do not lose the gains that women have struggled for for the last 50 years.”

McKibben followed Sanders later in the rally with a short address, but the strongest words on the environment came from Sanders: “It is a moral disgrace that America is not leading the world in cutting back on carbon emissions and helping to reverse global warming,” he said.

The crowd hadn’t shrunk after standing for nearly two hours on the Statehouse lawn, despite 40 degree temperatures.

“Dang, where’s global warming when you need it?” McKibben joked as he took to the microphone.

Both Sanders and McKibben encouraged Vermont to lead the nation in renewable energy, mentioning that the industry could provide well-paid jobs that promote long-term economic growth for Vermont.

“We very much need the state Senate tomorrow to take up this bill that puts a big renewable portfolio standard together and moves Vermont quickly, not slowly, toward job-rich renewable energy,” McKibben said.

Taylor Dobbs

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7 Comments on "Hundreds rally in Montpelier for May Day labor event"

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4 years 26 days ago

Providing education, health care, etc. is not “government assistance.” These are the FUNCTIONS of government — to provide, with taxpayer money — the services necessary to life.

It’s not about “disgust” with the 1 percent — it’s about govt. policy that does not ask them to pay their fair share.

Finally, this event not “reminiscent” of Occupy events of the fall. May Day actions took place yesterday across the country as part of a coordinated day of protest, kicked off by Occupy several months ago.

Al Salzman
4 years 26 days ago
The banks are made of marble / with a guard at every door And the vaults are lined with silver/Vermonters sweated for! A struggling dairy farmer/ Worries the milk price he’ll get Won’t cover his expenses / and push him deeper into debt! Shumlin won’t ask the wealthy/ to pay a little more He’d rather balance the budget/ on the workers and the poor. The banks are mad of marble/with a guard at every door The vaults are lined with silver/ Vermonters sweated for! Families are evicted/with just the clothes upon their backs Their mortgage was a phony/robo-signed by Goldman… Read more »
Jay Moore
4 years 26 days ago

Exactly. In fact, yesterday’s May Day march and rally in Montpelier was partly organized by the Occupies in Vermont, and we had our 2nd statewide General Assembly with Occupy people present from Rutland, Burlington, the Upper Valley, the NEK, and here in Central Vermont following the above on the steps of the State House to plan for our next actions.

David Van Deusen
4 years 26 days ago
Vermont First Nation/Abenaki Leader Calls for Establishment of Tribal Forests and the Creation of a Popular Front of Peoples’ Organizations! May 1 Speech: Luke Willard, of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe, Vermont Sierra Club & Our Forest Our Future Campaign Put People & The Planet First Rally-Montpelier, 2012 (The following speech was given by First Nation/Abenaki leader Luke Willard at the Put People and the Planet First Vermont May Day demonstration in Montpelier. This rally, largely organized by the Vermont Workers Center, made history by being the largest weekday demonstration in the long history of Vermont’s Capital City. Despite rain, cold,… Read more »
Patrick Cashman
4 years 24 days ago
Just to make sure I understand this initiative; Mr. Willard is advocating the use of public funds to purchase land that would then be gifted to a particular sub-set of Vermonters? That would seem directly counter to Article 7 of the Vermont Constitution; “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family or set of persons, who are a part only of that community…” I also have to wonder if his involvement in this initiative… Read more »
Wendy Wilton
4 years 25 days ago

Isn’t Bernie a 1% er?

Jason Farrell
4 years 24 days ago
“You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a President encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent—and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1 percent—you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. The American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.” “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the… Read more »
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