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Citizens Push Back to Force Government Action

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Dan DeWalt
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                              As the U.S. Congress continues to waste its time focusing on erased football tapes instead of erased torture tapes, and fighting to maintain the sanctity of a steroid free home run record, rather than the sanctity of the Constitution, citizen uprisings are now emerging across New England.

            Betty Hall’s H24 impeachment resolution is scheduled for a floor fight in the New Hampshire House on March 12. On March 4, Brattleboro and Marlboro Vermont citizens passed resolutions calling on their towns’ governing bodies to issue indictments for the arrest of Bush/Cheney for the crimes that Congress refuses to prosecute. And in Kennebunkport Maine, Senate candidate Laurie Dobson has petitioned the board of selectmen to put the indictment article on their town meeting warning slated for June 2.

            Two weeks ago, New Hampshire citizens made their first big push to get impeachment back on the table when close to a hundred overflowed a statehouse hearing room to testify in favor of Representative Hall’s resolution, calling for the impeachment of the President and Vice President. This resolution cites paragraph 603 in the parliamentary rules of Jefferson’s manual, which Congress still adheres to today. Jefferson recognized that there would be times when the executive and legislative branches could become corrupted and unreliable to protect the Constitution. So he made special provision for the branch of state government that is most directly related to the people - the state House of representatives - to be able to draft impeachment resolutions and send them to the U.S. Congress as a privileged motion, going directly to the floor of the Congress for debate and action. In over four hours of testimony, citizens representing every part of the political spectrum, from the John Birch Society to Code PINK, voiced their agreement that when the government abandons the Constitution and chooses to live outside of the law, it is the duty of the people, in whose hands sovereignty ultimately lies, to force the Congress to impeach and remove from office the offending administration.

            The minority report which came out of that committee hearing remarked on the “multi-partisanship” of those testifying, and committee members said that they had never seen an issue that had united so many disparate points of view. Unfortunately, it was the minority report, because the majority of committee members chose to hew to the national party line of no impeachment, no matter how egregious the crimes.

            As word of the hearing spread across the region and nation, thousands of citizens responded with hope and admiration. Often at a rate of one per minute, emails poured into Betty’s mailbox, voicing encouragement and offering support.  Rep. Hall hopes to turn these well wishers into a citizens’ lobbying effort, asking all who wrote to contact their House reps. and urge them to consider the nation, not their party leaders when the vote comes next week.

            In the meantime, concerned citizens in southern Vermont had drafted a resolution calling for their towns to issue indictments for the arrest of Bush and Cheney if they are not impeached. In spite of an initial firestorm of protest, orchestrated in part by right wing radio talking heads, the good citizens of Brattleboro and Marlboro voted decisively in favor of the resolution, and now it lies in the hands of their local governments to figure out the next plausible step in bringing these men to account. There is no manual that outlines this tactic that the Vermonters could point to for justification. Instead, they, just like our nation’s founders when faced with repeated appeals for redress being ignored by their government, crafted their own approach, trusting in the universal recognition that war crimes and crimes of a government against its own Constitution are untenable and must be remedied by any means available. Again, the general public, hearing of this initiative, responded overwhelmingly, flooding the town of Brattleboro’s email box with over 8000 responses, with a strong majority in support of the citizens’ actions. Within hours of the successful vote, organizers found themselves answering queries from people in other localities across the nation, asking how they could replicate the process in their towns.

            Now it’s the turn of Kennebunkport. Although Republicans are the majority of town voters, Senate candidate Dobson is launching a petition drive get the indictment resolution on their June town meeting. She understands that Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike share a love of the Constitution and believe that no man, including the President and Vice President, are above the law.

            One year ago, after forty Vermont town meetings had called for impeachment, Vermonters asked their legislature to issue a call for impeachment to the Congress. When the legislature refused to act, Vermonters responded first by overwhelming the Senate chamber with their bodies and voices, and the Senate recognized the validity of their arguments and passed an impeachment resolution. The Vermont House was more recalcitrant. Speaker Gaye Symington informed us that she would in no way take up such a resolution. In response, over 400 Vermonters flooded the golden domed House chamber, forcing Symington to reverse her stand and allow a vote. Unfortunately, she outmaneuvered the people by keeping House members in the dark about the vote until the day before, thus limiting informed debate, and the measure fell short of passage in the House.

             The cowardice and ineptitude of our politicians have allowed the nation to now reach a point where the lawless and unconstitutional actions of the administration are more brazen than ever. The occupation of Iraq is entering its sixth year. One million Iraqis have perished, as well as over 4000 Americans, with many tens of thousands injured, traumatized and facing a bleak future of surviving as wounded souls, with little or no assistance from the government that lied to them and used them as fodder.

            These citizens movements that are demanding impeachment action by our Congress, and, barring that, taking it upon themselves to instruct their municipalities to take the necessary actions to hold our “leaders” accountable are just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot wait for one more year of criminality, torture and murder to pass unchecked. Each time we see that our efforts for redress are ignored, be they letters to representatives, protest marches at home and in Washington D. C., or lobbying at our statehouse, we will escalate our efforts, devise new approaches, and make such a noise unto the land that the undeserving and cowardly government currently in power will have to give way, making room for a new order that trumpets not American hegemony, but American principles grounded in universal law and human rights.

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Dan Dewalt is a musician/woodworker/teacher who authored the Newfane impeachment resolution passed at March 2006 town meetings.
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