Burlington protests a racist law

June 22, 2010

BURLINGTON, Vt.--Dozens of activists crowded the Burlington City Council meeting June 14 to demand that the city join the growing number that are boycotting Arizona. The council's public comments period lasted about an hour, with a diverse group of speakers all speaking in favor of the boycott. The council eventually voted 10-4 for the resolution to boycott Arizona.

Testimony was emotional, with many immigrants speaking of their experience and saying they were "scared to go to Arizona." Sara Martinez DeOsaba said, "Being part of a large family, Spanish-speaking, we were yelled at all the time, 'Go back where you came from,' and it leaves a huge imprint on your soul."

Many activists spoke proudly of Vermont being the first state to ban slavery, arguing that the council should keep that tradition alive and support the boycott of Arizona. Others argued that Vermont has a responsibility as a border state to show which side we are on. "What we do is so important, and what we show the rest of the country is so important," Leslie Holman, an immigration lawyer said.

A "nasty rumor" had been spreading during the day that the Democrats on the council would vote to support the resolution, but would remove the lines about the boycott, essentially removing any teeth the resolution had. Activists nipped this in the bud, arguing that the resolution without the boycott was meaningless.

Devon Ayers, an immigrant rights activist argued, "If you take the boycott out, don't bother. We all know Burlington is a nice place to live. We don't need to hear that." Democratic City Councilor Ed Adrian proposed to remove the lines including the boycott, but was voted down 9-5.

Loud applause greeted the final vote to support the boycott as activists filed out into the hall to discuss next steps for the immigrant rights movement. "They wouldn't have passed that if we all didn't stay," one activist told the crowd before a celebratory "Si Se Puede!" chant echoed throughout City Hall.

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