A passel o’ peevishness on Inauguration Day (Part One)

Many a knicker was tightly knotted yesterday, judging by some of the statements made and actions taken at the inaugural ceremony.

Most of the collywobbles arose from the protest by advocates of single-payer health care. Many politicians were vocally incensed at such goings-on. And some of the protesters were shocked — shocked — that they might be handled roughly by police.

The rest of the peevishness came from Republicans reacting, even more childishly than usual, to Gov. Shumlin’s inaugural address. I’ll cover that in a separate post.  Back to the demonstration.

The folks from the Vermont Workers Center went a bit too far when they disrupted the closing benediction. Otherwise their protest was peaceful if occasionally intrusive.

The assembled dignitaries, however, just couldn’t stomach this disturbance of their sacred space. Sen Dick McCormack wins the honor for Biggest Overreaction; he called the protest “fascist.” Protip for public figures: never ever ever ever ever use the word “fascist” unless you’re talking about a violent, oppressive, murderous regime.

Sen. Bobby Starr, D-Hicktown, resorted to the “You Kids Get Off My Lawn” meme: “I think they should get a job.” Dirty hippies!

Senate Penitent Pro Tem John Campbell was among several lawmakers who told protesters they were hurting their own cause.

Snort. As if.

Two points. First, single payer is dead for the foreseeable future. Second, any lawmaker who casts a future vote because of yesterday’s demonstration is failing his/her duty.

And the Governor, speaking today on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show, said the protesters had “hurt the cause” by showing a “lack of respect for the process.”

Awww. Would that be the same process (and the same governor) who built up their hopes and expectations for years, only to dash them all in a single moment? Shumlin reaped the benefits of single-payer advocates’ support through three election cycles, and then abruptly trashed it all.

Advocates are understandably upset about that, and the inauguration of Peter Shumlin was an appropriate time to express their outrage. It was, in fact, the perfect time. The Governor shouldn’t play with people’s beliefs, and expect to be shielded from the consequences by his sense of decorum. As a Mark Johnson Show caller pointed out, disruption is the only way for people who feel disenfranchised to make their voices heard.

So, no sympathy for the hurt fee-fees of our distinguished leaders.

Not that the protesters are without blame. The single moment where things went too far was during the closing prayer. Protesters were outside, singing. One of them, Ki Walker, entered the balcony and continued to sing. A protest organizer later claimed that Walker thought the ceremony was over. But Walker was right there at center stage. He could see that the ceremony was continuing. And he kept on singing.

Afterward, he explained himself to Seven Days’ Paul Heintz:

 “Our tone was, like, nice or whatever,” Walker said.

Duuuuuuude. 

But the Whiniest Protester Award goes to Sheila Linton, who was part of the group occupying the House floor after the ceremony. When police began trying to remove the group, very politely, she refused to move or speak. When they tried to lift her arms, she began screaming as though they were using a chainsaw. (You can see the video on Seven Days’ website.)

Okay, here’s a lesson for Vermont’s Junior Gandhis. Your commitment to passive resistance  includes the possibility of what one trooper called “pain compliance” — the application of discomfort to those who resist police action. And this wasn’t Bull Connor with firehoses and Dobermans; these were state troopers acting with restraint and deliberation. Sorry, Ms. Linton, no sympathy here.

The demonstration itself was relatively mild, Mr. Walker being a notable exception. So was the police response. People on both sides got way more upset than they should have been.

The best reaction came from House Speaker Shap Smith, quoted by the Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami:

“I think this was an incredible example of the openness of our democracy,” he said. “In the people’s house, people are allowed to petition, and I would expect that over the coming weeks, we’ll talk with people about setting up hearings.”

Measured, reasonable, respectful. Just about perfect.

(Still to come: VTGOPeevishness.)

 

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5 thoughts on “A passel o’ peevishness on Inauguration Day (Part One)

  1. Pingback: The Activist Mama

  2. David Schoales

    Finally an adult report on these events. Thank you. People get pissed and they act out. Given the governor’s tendency to talk in the first person and focus on himself and his ideas, a noisy protest directed his way makes sense.

    Reply
  3. Sen. Joe Benning

    Congrats on this article John, you really demonstrated your willingness on being an equal opportunity lambaster.

    I would, however, like to bring up one potential casualty in all this that needs to be discussed. For the past four years I have sat on the Senate’s Institutions Committee which, among other things, discusses statehouse security. Prior to the protest last week there had already been a growing chorus clamoring for strengthened security, ranging from cameras to metal detectors and guards at every door. Sadly, we have witnessed too many tragedies in government buildings around the globe and that has naturally caused reaction here in Vermont.

    I’ve always been opposed to such measures because I take great pride in our statehouse being “The People’s House.” But I believe my voice, and the voices of those who agree with me, will be drowned out now by those who were angry, scared or just plain nervous about how this protest went down. That, in my opinion, would be a casualty of far greater significance than anything else addressed in your essay.

    Reply

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