By John Klar
On June 8, Brattleboro, Vermont hosted its annual celebration of local agriculture, the “Strolling of the Heifers” Parade. But this year, a small group of climate change protesters obstructed the parade for about 15 minutes, refusing to disperse. Two of the youngsters were carried off the roadway on backboards by authorities. No arrests were made.
This seemingly innocuous event contrasts sharply with Middlebury College students’ violent ouster of speaker Charles Murray in 2017, and more recently of Rhyszard Legutko, a writer and European parliamentary minister whose scheduled appearance was canceled over safety concerns. In Murray’s case, students criminally prevented a scheduled speaker from addressing attendees; some were charged. At the Brattleboro Heifer Stroll, a group of students disrupted a public event, were praised for it by Vermont’s lieutenant governor, were allowed to dominate the event for fifteen minutes, and were not charged with any crime (their banner was returned to them). Said the local police officer: “What they did could have gotten them arrested … but it was short and nonviolent.”
This parade is not a private function with paying fans like the NFL. Nor is it a private forum manipulated by a social media monopoly. This is an annual public celebration, with taxpayer-funded police and a sitting lieutenant governor as co-announcer, praising civil disobedience instead of imposing civil order.
In extremely liberal Vermont, this double standard goes unquestioned. But Americans had best pay attention to the progressive vanguard represented by David Zuckerman. Had the protesters been conservative youths donning MAGA hats in support of veterans, or displaying a massive Confederate flag in expression of free speech, would the crowd, the police, and our lieutenant governor have been so namby-pamby? Would those protesters be permitted fifteen minutes of “short and nonviolent” fame?
Consider the implications: the police and a government authority placed their firm imprimatur on one side of a political issue. As the protesters halted the parade, the announcers praised them (at 30:15) for their “great point” and then announced over the microphone the protesters’ demand that towns implement climate change policies. (Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman is not likely to offer an announcement service for climate change “deniers” or pro-life protesters).
But Dave Zuckerman goes much farther, beginning at 31:55:
Well I think that’s something that towns can do locally, and the state can do more as well and obviously even nationally and internationally. Thank you to the folks for bringing attention[.] … [Then at 33 mins:] You know it’s great, honestly, seeing young people getting involved as well you know I think a lot of us would like to see more of every age group get involved in our community and our political process making our voices heard, so kudos to young folks for getting involved as well.
Vermont’s left-wing media did not challenge the way the event was handled, soft-pedaling the free speech implications in tune with Zuckerman’s sugar-coated coaxing. One article reported that Zuckerman said:
“Activism is a good thing[.]” … But after five minutes of watching protesters writhe on the pavement while a lineup of more than 40 community groups and a crowd of several thousand spectators sat stymied in the hot sun, the Progressive Party politician turned his microphone into a negotiating tool.
Since David Zuckerman is a lead proponent in Vermont of a carbon tax and a slew of other liberal climate initiatives, he quickly enhanced and magnified an opportunity for the protesters, spread their message, and did nothing to intercede. That’s a moral hazard: being rewarded for criminally disrupting a public parade. Why wouldn’t they be back next year? The media and liberals applauded how reasonably he handled it — but he didn’t handle anything at all.
As event organizer Orly Munzing stated: “It’s not respectful of our farmers … to hold things up — not just for the people and animals in the parade, but many of the people and young children on the sidewalk, waiting in the hot sun.”
That duty to the public to restore order was simply not there. Mr. Zuckerman has been in government for many years. As a career politician who feigns being a farmer, he has demonstrated that he possesses little concern for the constitution (or for farmers’ rights). His motto per his website is “Vision with Vermont Values,” but he has yet to discover the value of maintaining civil order.
The concept of the rule of law eludes the blind bias of modern liberalism, which actually embraces the ideology (“critical theory”) that free speech and other protections must be removed in order for power to be transferred from dominant to subordinate groups. This is what we observe in practice in Vermont, where the media are a liberal propaganda machine and collective rights are something liberals invoke in lieu of personal responsibility to displace the rights of those with whom they disagree.
In Vermont, as in many parts of our nation today, liberals have free speech to disrupt public events without consequence; conservatives are prohibited from speaking. Liberals display Black Lives Matter flags at numerous public schools; conservatives display nothing at any schools. At times, this is accomplished by the failure of police to protect conservatives and the failure of police to arrest liberals who openly and clearly defy the law.
At the Strolling of the Heifers Parade 2019, this bias against free speech was on full display, augmented by blatant government endorsement, using broadcast media by Vermont’s ultra-progressive lieutenant governor. Perhaps he invited the protesters. If not, he most surely invited the next ones (liberals only, of course!).
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield.