On toilets, protests
and citizens’ rights
Editor of the Reformer:
As one of the organizers of the two largest demonstrations carried out by the Safe and Green Campaign and the SAGE Alliance at the Vermont Yankee Power Plant in Vernon during the past year, I would like to supply some background information and context to "Vernon Approves Ordinance Banning Public Urination " (by Mike Faher, Nov. 7).
While both SAGE and Safe and Green are committed to closing Vermont Yankee as soon as possible, and will continue to organize demonstrations at VY in the town of Vernon, we are equally committed to conducting ourselves in a manner that is respectful to the citizens of Vernon. We have done everything in our power to negotiate access to toilet facilities with the Vernon town government. At a special Vernon town meeting last March, I was told that we couldn’t use bathrooms at the town office building because the septic system couldn’t handle it. My offer to place portable toilets on town land, at a location approved by the Selectboard and at our expense, was denied. Prior to our last large demonstration in Vernon on July 1, we were preparing to put portable toilets on a low flatbed trailer that could be placed on the side of Governor Hunt Road. The Vermont State Police intervened on our behalf and arranged for us to use portable toilets provided by TransCanada at the Vernon Dam. During the demonstration, we had shuttle cars driving people the 1/3 mile to these facilities.
The Faher article contains an astonishing quote from Vernon Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O’Donnell: "Every time there’s a protest, their lawns are being used as public rest rooms." We have steadfastly done everything within our power to conduct these demonstrations in a respectful and cooperative way. We have gone out of our way to open lines of communication with the Vernon Police and the State Police. We have not seen this type of behavior, nor have we received any reports of such behavior prior to or since O’Donnell’s unsubstantiated statement.
It is apparent to me that the Vernon Town Government is pretending to honor our freedom of speech while trying to prevent us from demonstrating at VY. Last year they prohibited us from parking at the school lot across from VY, even on non-school days. This summer the Vernon Selectboard passed a seven-page "Parade and Open Air Meeting Ordinance" that I believe will be used to hinder our future demonstrations. This latest ordinance is not based in the reality of the situation, and we think the people of Vernon would be better served by their Selectboard’s showing more concern for what is leaking into their groundwater from VY.
While we will not let the actions of the Vernon Selectboard hinder demonstrations at VY, Safe and Green and SAGE remain committed to minimizing any nuisance or inconveniences and respecting the rights of the citizens of Vernon.
Brattleboro, Dec. 4
VY protesters should be considered heroes
Editor of the Reformer:
Regarding your editorial of Nov. 29, "Respect for our legal system":
What a poor spirited, and short sighted editorial. Has the editor who wrote it never heard of Henry David Thoreau’s "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (1849)? Here are some relevant quotes to refresh his memory:
"If ... the machine of government ... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."
"I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."
Or Albert Einstein:
"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it."
Even more apropos:
"It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do." -- Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation, 1775
The defendants in the trespass case, six brave and determined women, did not violate the law to be a nuisance to Vermont. They did it to call attention to the imminent danger, defined in part by the OSHA regulations as:
-- There must be a threat of death or serious physical harm. "Serious physical harm" means that a part of the body is damaged so severely that it cannot be used or cannot be used very well.
-- For a health hazard there must be a reasonable expectation that toxic substances or other health hazards are present and exposure to them will shorten life or cause substantial reduction in physical or mental efficiency. The harm caused by the health hazard does not have to happen immediately.
They are trying to protect you, your family, and your state (and our state too), from the same kind of disaster that has stricken Fukushima Japan, whose nuclear power plant is the same make as the one operated by Vermont Yankee. The danger of the continued plant operation is clear and has been recognized by the Governor of Vermont, as well as its legislature.
Legal options to stop its operation seem to be exhausted.
How then can the people of Vermont, Massachusetts and New York be protected except through the actions of these heroes, who by their civil disobedience are crying out for a sane and sensible policy that will shut down this plant before there is a disaster, before thousands of people of all ages will be poisoned with nuclear waste and the land of your, and our, state permanently polluted, like the land surrounding Chernobyl.
Give these women praise, and look to your own safety and the safety of the people around you, and see what you can do, along with these six women, to stop the operation of Vermont Yankee before it is too late.
Brookline, Mass., Dec. 3
Passing it on
Editor of the Reformer:
I am writing about a wonderful thing happening in downtown Hinsdale. On each Monday night some of the ladies from the church meet at the Congregational Church, downtown. They are usually there by 6:30 p.m. They have a craft night. They, as the older women, want to pass on the crafts to other generations.
I always wanted to learn quilting, but did not have the time or money. They teach for free. Yes, that is right, free. Do you want to make a pair of curtains for your kitchen? Always wanted to crochet? How about learning to sew? Quilting, cross stitch and even knitting? It’s all free.
I have been quilting for a bit now and still go every Monday night for the support , the visit and just to learn something else. We worked on Christmas ornaments and quilt squares recently. Please, if there is anything you would like to learn, they will kindly teach you. You only have to purchase your own supplies.
For more information, contact Alice Nadeau at 603-336-7001. And, of course, I am there to chit chat too.
Hinsdale, N.H., Dec. 4
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