Tuesday December 4, 2012

Readers respond to our Nov. 29 editorial about the recent trial of several woman charged and convicted of trespassing at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon:

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Editor of the Reformer:

The Reformer’s recent editorial about the trial of the women of the Shut It Down Affinity Group ("Respect for our legal system," Nov. 29) was both high-and-mighty and petty. I suggest that the editorial board take a look at the famed essay "Civil Disobedience," by Henry David Thoreau. But perhaps because (like the defendants) Thoreau was a resident of Massachusetts, you might not consider him a worthwhile thinker. Or perhaps you could read some of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s writings on the civil rights movement, or those of Dr. Benjamin Spock or the Rev. William Sloan Coffin on draft resistance during the Vietnam war. As for the financial burden that this trial placed on the state of Vermont, please consider that your state’s governor and Legislature have the same goal as these women and many thousands of others -- shutting down Vermont Yankee. And please consider the cost to taxpayers of Vermont and other states if there is a major nuclear accident there.

Allen Young,

Royalston, Mass., Nov. 29

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Editor of the Reformer:

The Nov.


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29 editorial ("Respect for our legal system") lambasting six elderly nuke protesters for irresponsible behavior represented a dogmatic thinking process so narrow and mean as to have no place in the here and now.

Had this smug soulless writer been extant to witness the capture of escaped slaves during the antebellum era, would he have been pleased to see the law upheld? Would he have gone against a person of sympathy who broke the law by attempting to aid the escapees? Hearing the cries of tortured plundered people chained in coffle to be dragged back to rapist masters, might he have said, "This is not a question of slavery, but of respect for law?"

From the genesis of social order the founded reason for law -- either democratically or dictatorially promulgated -- has been to protect wealth, property and privilege for the most powerful at the hierarchal top, with a trickle down benefit potential for those below, diminishing in correlation to position. Law also lubricates and provides leverage to expedite agendas of manipulation, a process perfectly exemplified by the continued existence of Entergy Vermont Yankee in Vermont. In this capacity law is not for the benefit of society, but to allow the plunder of society. It puts a cloak of propriety on greed and becomes the force that maintains the status quo.

The laws that empowered Jim Crow furthered entrenchment of ancient wrongs morphing into accepted protocol. If not for protesters, people of committed ethics and conscience, Jim Crow would still be frozen in place by law. New law that disenfranchised Jim Crow came in the wake of social protest; law was never in the vanguard.

The six elderly ladies so scorned by our Reformer editor are my heroes. Social activists acting with commitment against greed and cruelty have always been the hub upon which society turns to the light. The town of Vernon and indeed an entire portion of New England is occupied by an entity corrupted by greed, motivated by profit and willing to sell land and people down river to fatten a bottom line. For 40 years our regulators, judiciary and law enforcement have been the willing sycophantic enablers of this wrong. If we are ever to be saved or are to save ourselves, it will be thanks to the dedicated old ladies, not canting editors.

Jim Herrick,

Marlboro, Nov. 30

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Editor of the Reformer:

In regards to Wednesday’s front page news about the six anti-nuke protesters, who I might add do not even live in the area, wasting taxpayers dollars, causing an inconvenience to the company, police force, etc., I have two questions:

No. 1. Were they given a no trespass warrant so the next time this happens they’ll be found in contempt, it happens to people on a daily basis everyday in the real world. And convictions are usually brought forth (meaning you can’t go there again in an allotted time).

No. 2. Why not incarcerate them, instead of sweeping it under the rug so they can do it again? Accusations were already made about how they will not pay the fines!

Is it because of their age? They have nothing better to do? Do they fish the Connecticut River on a daily basis? End result is they’re breaking laws, and simply getting away with it. If it were me, I bet I’d still be behind bars.

Last, but not least, if they were to be incarcerated, how would they feel about the fact that the electric bars that "slam shut" at night, or the lights in their cell’s electricity probably comes from Vermont Yankee.

Do the math.

Bob Kane,

Hinsdale, N.H., Nov. 30

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Editor of the Reformer:

Regarding these brave women who put themselves at risk on our behalf and your editorial chastising them -- the original Boston Tea Partiers were also trespassers and yet we celebrate them today for being the start of this country. It is a sacred duty to speak up to power when it is harming folks. And as for them doing 100 hours of community service -- they have already completed that by their actions for this community.

Whether you live in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or any other place within the reach of this danger, we should all be thankful that people are taking the time to voice their concerns, especially when done in a non-violent manner. It’s the American Way.

Wendy Goodwin,

Middlebury, Dec. 1

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Editor of the Reformer:

I was stunned by the negative tone of the editorial "Respect for our legal system" (Nov. 29). I live near the Vermont border and worked for many years in Brattleboro. I also have family in Vermont. My respect and appreciation for the state has always been great, so I was very disappointed to read such negative responses to the six women who were tried for trespass at Vermont Yankee on Nov. 27.

The person who wrote the editorial must not have been present in that Brattleboro court room, witnessing the trial of six white-haired grandmothers who were charged with trespassing at the gates of Yankee and whose actions were motivated by conscience. I was inspired and challenged by the actions and the courage of the women I was there to support. Most important, I felt hope again, hope that ordinary citizens can take a stand against corporate powers who pollute our earth and water with impunity.

All six defendants are full-time activists for peace and justice. As I listened to the testimonies of these local heroes, I was filled with pride. Frances Crowe, 93, called upon older people to be the ones who step up, speak out, and put our bodies on the line, risking arrest and imprisonment as we follow a higher law. "Everything Hitler did was legal, but it was wrong," she reminded us. As she and the other defendants spoke about the dangers, the illegality, and the corporate greed at the foundation of Yankee’s continuing operation, I was not the only person in the courtroom blinking back tears. Jurors were visibly moved, and the court officers stood at respectful attention.

Paki Wieland asked Vernon police Chief Mary Beth Hebert if, after the many times she had been called to Vermont Yankee to arrest these aging activists, "Do you see us as unrepentant recidivists or persistent women?" Hebert smiled warmly, answering in an unmistakably affectionate tone "You are persistent." As the women masterfully conducted their own defense, spectators in the court room heard from police officers -- and even Yankee’s head of security -- that the protesters had been consistently respectful and non-violent. Here was another lesson in the patience and courage it takes to act from conscience.

"When the grandmothers speak, the earth heals," said Wieland at the end of her testimony. When these grandmothers spoke, I witnessed a kind of healing that we are sorely in need of at this time in our country. I am already thinking about who among my friends may join me as I follow in the beautiful footsteps of the women I am privileged to call neighbors.

Dusty Miller,

Belchertown, Mass., Nov. 30