Protesters gathered in Burlington Sunday to denounce the energy-focused agenda of the 36th annual meeting of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian premiers.
The protest turned confrontational when a number of demonstrators blocked buses that were carrying conference goers to an event outside the downtown hotel where the event was held. Police fired pepper balls and used other crowd control tactics. Many among the 500 activists complained that police overreacted, but the Burlington chief said it was appropriate and followed city policies.
Brian Tokar is from East Montpelier and directs the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield. He says the protest drew people concerned about shipments of Canadian tar sands oil though New England and others fighting to oppose imports of electricity from Hydro-Quebec.
"Vermont and northern New England as a whole is once again being proposed as a major energy corridor for the entire Northeast, to bring tar sands oil from Alberta on pipelines through the Northeast Kingdom, to bring hydroelectric power from Quebec, new power lines through northern New Hampshire," Tokar said. "These mega projects are not to serve us in Vermont; they’re really about serving the major population centers to our South."
Elyse Vollant journeyed from northeast Quebec to make the point that what’s labeled green energy still has human and environmental costs.
She’s a member of the Innu community. And she’s fighting new hydro-electric projects in her homeland where Hydro-Quebec wants to build new dams, reservoirs and power lines.
"Of course it can’t be green," Vollant said through an interpreter. "It’s destroying rivers, it’s destroying trees. And so it can’t be green energy. And so her message to the governor of Vermont is to stop buying energy that’s being produced on lands stolen from indigenous people, from First Nations people.
Protesters dressed in black also staged what they called a "human oil spill" to illustrate the risks for shipping tar sands oil through Maine and northern Vermont.