Occupy protestors greet the president

? Not even the presence of U.S. Secret Service could keep them away. ? A diverse crowd of approximately 85 protestors greeted President Obama March 30 to draw attention to issues including the U.S. deficit, nuclear power, corporate greed, student loans and downsizing of the U.S. Postal Service. ? Congregating at the corner of Spear and Main streets, the protestors were a mix of Occupy Burlington members, UVM students and people who just wanted to send the president a message. ? “Most folks here are actually pro-Obama,” graduate student Nolan Rampy said. “We’re not here to be confrontational in any way; we’re just trying to exercise our right to free speech.” ? Rampy, a member of UVM’s Students for University Democracy, was one of several who felt that some of Obama’s campaign promises had been unfulfilled. ? Among the protestors’ concerns were the Bush-era tax cuts, the acceleration of wars in the Middle East, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the government’s crackdown on protesting, according to students. ? Jamie Moorby, a member of Occupy Burlingon, said that the rallying had been going well. ? “We’ve created some good dialogue – some people walking into the event have stopped to talk to us,” Moorby said. “People are waking up to the fact that [Obama’s] not all that he’s cracked up to be.” ? The protestors set up tents, signs, flags and banners that included politically-charged slogans like “Sub-Prime Democracy,” “No Banks, No Bosses,” and “The Lesser Evil is Still Evil.” ? Yet the atmosphere of the rally was occasionally jubilant, and the protestors’ sense of humor was evident – if inexplicable – with the appearance of a cardboard sign that read “I shaved my balls for this?” and the chant “It’s got to be 4/20 somewhere.” ? The three-hour-long rally was not without incident, however. UVM Police Chief Lianne Tuomey told the protestors to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians, citing “imminent domain” as justification for her demand. ? Jared Carter, director of the Vermont Community Law Center, was seen walking around and handing out his business card to protestors. ? “We’re here to observe and make sure people’s rights are being protected,” Carter said. “We sent out a press release to all law enforcement agencies when we heard about this event, and we urged them to respect these people and their rights.” ? Carter said he had not received a response from any of the law enforcement agencies he had contacted. ? Occupy Vermont had a strong presence at the rally as members waved signs, chanted slogans, took photographs and served homemade food out of a large white tent. ? Arthur Hayes, a member of Occupy Vermont, said that although the movement has not been as visible as it was a few months ago, it is still in full force. ? “The encampments got closed down, but they just moved indoors,” Hayes said. “A lot of us have moved back in the park to protest – May 1 is going to be huge for us.” ? A nationwide General Strike has been planned on that day called “Occupy May 1” as a celebration of labor solidarity. ? Emily Reynolds, another Occupy Vermont member, said that workers and students are encouraged to take the day off and “come party” with local Occupy movements. ? While the Obama protests may not have attracted the hundreds of people that some protestors had said they hoped for, it did display the grassroots community activism that both Burlington and UVM have long been known for. ? “We’re here to respond to instances of injustice,” senior Alex Buckingham said. ? Buckingham said the “self activity of real people” is a critical part of student activism, and suggested that how students hold their political leaders accountable may be even more important than the political leaders themselves. ? “It’s like that Howard Zinn quote,” Buckingham said. “‘It’s not about who’s sitting in the White House at the end of the day, it’s about who’s sitting in.'”