MONTPELIER — About 20 patriotic-minded Vermonters gathered near the Statehouse main entrance on a rainy afternoon Saturday to discuss engaging with school boards and selectboards on freedom-themed issues. They also focused on constitutional amendment Proposal 5 concerning abortion rights.
At the gathering, Maggie Karren, director of Development and Advocacy for Vermont Right to Life, shared about Proposal 5, which would codify abortion as a constitutional right up until the moment of birth. If the measure passes the House chamber one more time during the upcoming legislative session it will go to the voters as a ballot initiative in 2022.
“That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course, and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means,” she read.
Karren said the measure’s language is vague.
“So, anybody have any idea what that might have meant?” she said. “It has been stated repeatedly what Proposal 5 really means — [it] will be up to the courts to decide, that has been stated in legislative committee meetings over and over and over again.”
Familiar and new faces at the meeting shared stories about how they took the initiatives in their communities to engage on issues including critical race theory and genderless sex education in schools, as well as overbearing COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
Elisabeth Walton of Waterbury shared about the difference it makes to have like-minded friends come to local board meetings.
“And back to the intimidation piece as well — at that meeting, we noticed at the first meeting there weren’t very many of us, the second meeting that group was aware that we were there,” she said. ” … You can be that supportive body.”
She noted that folks from outside of a community can still attend other towns’ school and select board meetings, but they may not be allowed to speak without permission from the board.
Sen. Russ Ingalls, R-Essex-Orleans, also contributed to the discussion. Ingalls is known among liberty-minded supporters for his lone state Senate vote against the impeachment of former President Donald Trump due to his alleged role in the Jan. 6 riots.
“You cannot win unless you show up,” he said. “You cannot win until you get uncomfortable. And I’m here to tell everybody it’s time to get uncomfortable.”
Mark Coester, of the American Independent Party, is going to run for the seat of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in 2022. At the gathering he commented on the recent backlash over U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland calling concerned parents at school board meetings “domestic terrorists.”
“I want to talk about the fear factor with the FBI coming after parents,” he said. “I don’t know how many of you had time to pay attention to what’s going on, but Merrick Garland has been getting hammered by the Senate over that, immensely.”
Coester pointed out the absurdity that FBI agents might find time to bother peaceful parents.
“There are so many things going on with that — the fear factor is just what it is, it’s just fear factor,” he said. “There’s no reality to it, the FBI is not coming after parents. They might fly a helicopter over a place or have a few police cars somewhere, but if people aren’t unruly then you are not going to have any problems.”
Vermont Daily Chronicle editor Guy Page also spoke, saying it’s up to patriots to take action if they want to regain control of their country.
“If we are afraid to speak out, then that is on us,” he said.