The Editorial Board of The Times Argus laments the irony of protesters interrupting Gov. Phil Scott's State of State address just at the time he was calling for better listening among diverse groups. The Board cautions that such interruption may lead to added security at the State House, including bag checks and metal detectors. Although the Board seems to suggest that Governor Scott's decision to listen to the protesters was a nod to the seriousness of the issue, his speech itself included only one issue related to climate, namely increased support for electric vehicles.
The real irony The Times Argus failed to note was on the facing page of its own editorial, with an article discussing President Trump's unilateral decision to rollback environmental oversight rules. In the wake of environmental disasters such as the Keystone XL pipeline, Detroit's unsafe drinking water, increasing ownership of Vermont utilities by oil and gas interests, and the continued loss of species due to climate change and ocean acidification, our governments are failing to address the monumental risk of the climate crisis. Consequently, such protests as occurred on Thursday are likely to continue, and should.
Importantly, The Times Argus suggests "the next disruption could be on an equally passionate topic." This is true. Arrests due to illegal but non-violent disruptions are in the very lifeblood of our democracy. Protests by abolitionists in the 18th and 19th centuries, women seeking the right to vote at the turn of the 20th century, civil rights protesters demanding equal rights in the middle of the century, Vietnam War protesters, Black Lives Matter protests and others have all required the use of illegal, non-violent disruption in order to be heard. Martin Luther King Jr., who spent more than just one night the Birmingham Jail due to an illegal but essential protest, will be honored throughout our country this very month, for the very protests The Times Argus suggests are uncivil.
No one would now say non-violent protests should not be disruptive; indeed, it was lip service by elected representatives in the past that required disruption, and the same is true today. As the Board notes, the work that occurs at the State House should be important. Vermont is facing not only economic trouble, it is also facing environmental trouble. Honeybees, maple syrup and Lake Champlain are three obvious examples. Our representatives' responses to these challenges will directly impact those and other climate-related issues. If the economic future of Vermont is in doubt, it is not because protesters interrupt a speech. It is because our elected representatives continue not to listen.
Jennifer Myka lives in East Montpelier.