Vermonters who are being charged with disorderly conduct for protesting ICE family separations last summer, are being muzzled by the States Attorney. Why are they even being prosecuted? Nonviolent civil disobedience cases in Vermont have typically been dropped. Do we want our tax dollars paying for this?

 

We are a group of Vermonters who are deeply moved and angry about the Trump Administration’s treatment of those coming to the southern border to legally seek asylum. When the policy of stealing children from their families became public, at the end of May 2018, we sprang into action.

 

After multiple vigils and protests, some of us made a choice to sit in the road in front of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Williston, VT, to step up our level of protest, and to make it clear that we were willing to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. 13 of us, including two minors, were arrested. This arrest took place in July, and, if charges weren’t dropped, we had hoped that we would have a jury trial where we would be able to describe the necessity of our actions.  We feel that ICE and the government are guilty of child abuse, kidnapping, and of illegal, cruel treatment of asylum seekers at the southern border.

 

After a number of status hearings at which we continued to enter the plea of not guilty, we are finally, nearly seven months later, nearing the point of a jury draw. However, we have now been told that, should we proceed to a jury trial, we will not be allowed to state how our commitment to justice and humane treatment of asylum seekers was the reason we sat in the road. We will not be able to use feelings of compassion for those broken families as the explanation for this arrest. We will not even be able to mention the government agencies carrying out these atrocities. All of us who were arrested in July did so because we felt the need to join the national movement. In fact, protests like ours around the country did cause Trump to at least publicly walk back the policy of confiscating people’s children.

 

We have a number of questions about why this trial has been dragged out, and why we will be muzzled if we go to court. If the court won’t drop the charges, as is usually done in non-violent civil disobedience cases in Vermont, then why are we not allowed to properly defend ourselves? We wonder if this is in order to discourage us and others from taking further action, and where this pressure might be coming from.

 

We are asking members of the public, if this troubles you, to please call Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George at 802-863-2865 and ask why they are spending so much time and money on a case where there is no threat to public safety whatsoever. And why, should we go to trial, we will not be allowed to share the reason we chose to get arrested?

 

We will continue to speak out about the mass incarceration of legal asylum seekers. We will continue to be outraged that so many children who have been stolen from their families by OUR government are not going to be reunified with their loved ones, and it turns out it’s many more than any of us knew. To quote Senator Jeff Merkley, “This is what evil looks like.” We will continue to speak out about a militarized border.  And now we will vociferously oppose this bogus, unconstitutional new “state of emergency.” It’s our responsibility as citizens to speak out and also to act in accordance with our conscience, even if our court system attempts to deny us the chance to explain our actions. Please join us in speaking out.

 

Sincerely,

Ann Zimmerman, Guilford

Rachel Siegel, Burlington

David Feurzeig, Huntington

Mike McCleese, Worcester

Nancy Braus, Putney

Ursula Nadolny, Guilford

Tanyan Avendano, Newfane

Carol Davis, Brattleboro

 

To take action, please contact the following people:

 

  • Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George 802-863-2865

“Why you are continuing to spend time and resources to prosecute the nonviolent protesters who were arrested last summer in Williston? Why will you not allow them to use the necessity defense, and why are they not allowed to talk about family separation in their court case?”

 

You can also reach out to our Congressional delegation:

 

 

 

“Thank you for continuing to oppose the separation of children from their families at our southern border and for speaking up against the bogus, unconstitutional “state of emergency” that Trump has proclaimed.”

 

Lastly, you can contribute to the legal costs of the CD case. We are helping to offset the cost of civil disobedience for the members of the group who do not have the means to do this otherwise. We are attempting to make this tactic more accessible to more people. If we reach our fundraising goal, we will share it with groups that are active at the southern border. Please give here if you are able.

 

Vermonters who are being charged with disorderly conduct for protesting ICE family separations last summer, are being muzzled by the States Attorney. Why are they even being prosecuted? Nonviolent civil disobedience cases in Vermont have typically been dropped. Do we want our tax dollars paying for this?