MONTPELIER — A climate encampment that took over the State House lawn from Thursday through Saturday afternoon lived up to its mission: it raised awareness in a high-profile, non-violent way. Under a cloudless sky Saturday, the complete opposite of the rainy, cold start a day and half prior, organizers seemed buoyed by both the die-hard demonstrators who had set up tents on the lawn in front of the State House, as well as the interested members of the weekend crowd from around the state that trickled into the encampment through the morning.
The “unpermitted siege” was coordinated by Extinction Rebellion Vermont (XRVT). It was conceived by Carmen Richardson-Skinder, a 15-year-old student at Montpelier High School.
Throughout the three-day event, participants took part in workshops and open discussions aimed at addressing the climate crisis, as well as offering solutions and additional methods for activism and public education.
Around midday Saturday, participants of “Climate Encampment: Youth, Migration and Agriculture” were using the State House steps as a dais to report back to the larger group of participants, guests and onlookers.
One by one (and sometimes as a group), individuals — some hailing from as far away as Massachusetts — spoke about a range of topics, from reducing consumption going into the upcoming holiday season, to demanding the integration of climate change into school curricula, to coming up with ways to force the discussion with individuals who might not be as up to speed on the topic of “climate emergency.”
As one young person told the group of about 70 people assembled, “it’s about community, building community and improving community.”
Most individuals indicated they were energized by the ongoing discussion, the encampment and the networking that had taken place.
There were college students, including some from Middlebury College, as well as high school students from Harwood, Hazen and points in between. Also taking part were senior citizens, some who indicated they have been standing up for environmental issues for decades now.
Organizer Henry Harris, of Marshfield, urged people to share information to reinforce the network of activism and education.
All in all, the various calls for action at the high-profile protest, which included the encampment, displays, some vendors and a temporary chicken coop with about 100 laying hens, was positive and — as advertised — disruptive but non-violent.
Bob Atchison, of Plainfield, who was in charge of coordinating the encampment site for XRVT, said the event had gone well.
“It’s been great,” he summed up.
Other than a few disruptive horn-honkers during the nighttime hours on Saturday, there were no incidents.
Typically, there is no camping — or overnight use — of the State House lawn. In addition, there were concerns there could be a counter-demonstration during the event. No such protest materialized.
Capitol Police and Montpelier Police Department reported no notable incidents related to the encampment.
A dance party on State Street on Friday evening drew a crowd of non-encampment participants.
As one young person noted during Saturday’s short speeches, “This is not the end of this discussion; it is just the beginning, and it has never been more important.”
Atchison said the event was scheduled to be finished by mid-afternoon. He said the workshops and discussions had given him plenty to think about.