VT: Independent Candidate for Governor Arrested at Gubernatorial Debate (Updated w/ Video: "Be careful, they have tasers!")

At a recent debate that apparently only included Vermont's Democratic candidates for governor, independent gubernatorial candidate Dennis Steele was arrested for disorderly conduct after "interrupting" the event. In their coverage of the debate, the Barre Montpelier Time Argus reports:
At one of the liveliest events so far in the campaign for the governorship, the five Democratic candidates jostled for political position and sparred as they answered questions on labor and union issues Thursday evening. Adding to the drama, a third-party candidate for governor had to be removed by police after he began interrupting answers by the candidates.
The caption to a photo accompanying the report actually provides more information on the incident than the report itself, stating:
Dennis Steele of Kirby, a candidate for governor with the Second Vermont Republican Party, is arrested for disorderly conduct by Barre Police after interrupting Thursday night's debate.
Dennis Steele heads a slate of independent secessionist candidates calling for the establishment of the "Second Vermont Republic":
The Second Vermont Republic is a nonviolent citizens' network and think tank opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. government, and committed to the peaceful return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic and more broadly the dissolution of the Union.
Robert Wagner, an independent candidate for State Senate who is also affiliated with the group, provides his take on the event:

Dennis Steele is running for Vermont’s highest office as an Independent. He has systematically been excluded from public meetings. This is Vermont, isn’t it? Not where the status quo is more vital than free speech.

As an independent candidate, I am appalled at how the Democrat/Republican political machine totally controls the public debate and limits the questions that can be asked. To standard questions, with rehearsed answers, the same every time.

There’s $1.5 billion of Vermont’s wealth just sitting there, and these shills for a corrupt Empire just sit there as well and allow it to go to the oil & drug wars. But to even TALK about touching this money gets you arrested.

The Democrats have played their hand, using the police (at public expense) to protect their monopoly on public spaces and public speech . . .

The Machine is consolidating power, taking over public spaces, town halls, firehouses, schools & universities, and illegally excluding Independent candidates from the ongoing debates in the 2010 Vermont Election. They are strangling free speech, taking over the public airwaves, and bringing in a police state, where Independent challengers have to risk arrest and harassment–merely to participate in the electoral race on equal terms!
Update: I was able to find a more detailed report on this incident at Seven Days, in a post by Shay Totten who live-blogged the event. Totten writes:

While the candidates didn't challenge each other during the debate, an independent candidate for governor — Dennis Steele — did.

Steele, who is one of about a dozen secessionist candidates running for statewide and local offices in Vermont, interrupted the candidates early on. First, he shouted a comment from the back of the room, asking why they weren't addressing what he claims is Vermont's $1.5 billion share in a "failed foreign policy."

He was asked to be quiet by organizers, and many attendees, but later walked right up the center aisle to the front of the room and shouted again, "Why aren't you talking about the $1.5 billion that is our share of a failed foreign policy? Why aren't you addressing it?"

He was then asked to sit back down by Parsons, and refused. Two Barre City police officers escorted Steele out of the building.

"Am I under arrest? Am I under arrest?!" Steele repeatedly asked as he resisted being removed.

Indeed, Steele was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, he told Seven Days today. He was able to go back later, after the debate, to collect his equipment. He was recording the event for his online radio station, Free Radio Vermont.

Steele was not invited, said organizers, because this debate was intended for candidates taking part in a primary. Although, Parsons did say at one point during the debate that [Republican candidate Brian] Dubie had been invited, but declined to attend. [Emphasis added.]
So Steele is excluded from the debate, apparently, on the grounds that it is only intended as a forum for candidates in the Democratic primary, but then it is revealed that the Republican candidate was also invited to participate! If, however, the debate was intended to be a forum for any gubernatorial candidate "who will be taking part in a primary" regardless of party, then this latter stipulation is clearly intended to exclude all independent candidates for the office from the event. According to Politics1, there are four independent candidates for governor of Vermont: Dennis Steele, Mike Bernhardt, Cris Ericson and Anthony Pollina.

Update 2: Vermont Public Television has uploaded video of the debate to their website. The event is entitled: "Working Vermont's Democratic Primary Debate." Steele interrupts the proceedings just after to 25 minute mark. Thanks to Shay Totten for the tip. Viewing the video, perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Steele's confrontation with the police is a woman who can be clearly heard exclaiming in the background: "Be careful, they have tasers!"


Anonymous said...

I fear it is too late for any change. The coup is in and apparently succeeded.

Unknown said...

I completely agree that alternative candidates and parties need to be represented in debates.

But wasn't this a (Democratic) party primary debate, not a general election debate?

Please cue me in to what is wrong here.

d.eris said...

B-man, I share your pessimism on my bad days.

none, as there is little information on that score in the story, I don't know either if this was a "primary" debate, but that is a good guess.

It is hard to say what precisely is wrong here in this particular case, since we know so few details. But, speaking more generally, what is wrong here is that the Democratic and Republican Parties will essentially stop at nothing to exclude third party and independent candidates from any and all debates to ensure that people never hear alternative voices and viewpoints, and learn about alternative candidates to those of the global warfare and global welfare state parties.

Dems and Reps will say: hey this is the primary debate, you can't speak here. And then in five months they will say: hey this is the general election debate, you can't speak here either.

See the comments thread on this story at independent political report for examples of similar instances.