From left: keeping cool in the 90+ degree heat at the August 21 Freedom Rally on the State House lawn; organizer Jim Sexton; most of the estimated 150 attendees stayed off the hot concrete and sought shade wherever they could find it.
by Aaron Warner
As we drove in four-wheeled freedom to this past weekend’s freedom rally in Montpelier, I had questions that needed answers.
Is there still esprit de corps for freedom? Not long ago, the notion of American exceptionalism and freedom was a proven crowd favorite and reason to cheer. The recent rise in anti-American, anti-police, anti-freedom sentiments has put the pillars of freedom under tremendous stress from the weight of those willing to riot and put a knee to them.
Would I find people ready and able to fight like hell to keep the spirit of the greatest country ever alive and well?
I also wondered if we would see a visit from America’s latest domestic enemy, Antifa. With the recent images of the black clad nihilists attacking a prayer gathering in my home city of Portland, Oregon, I warned my 15 year-old son Joshua, with me to look after our 7 month-old Doberman puppy Ryno, to go sit on the steps of the Capitol if they showed up.
Also, not to worry if his dad was seen jettisoning someone dressed all in black into the street.
In the event, heat, humidity and the apparent lack of urgency to suppress patriotism in progressive stronghold Vermont, meant they would not be coming, or so I concluded after approaching the Montpelier police chief Brian Peete. When asked, Chief Peete was eager and friendly to allow my questions.
Would Antifa disturb the gathering? Peete assured me they would not. Chief Peete explained the communication between him and Freedom Rally event coordinator Jim Sexton, with whom they had dealt with for other events, was transparent and effective for keeping the event safe for all involved. Asked about how other departments either responded or failed to respond to Antifa aggressors, he assured me his department was dedicated to everyone’s safety, including Antifa. We spoke a little about the loss of morale in Vermont departments, including Burlington’s, and the inappropriate responses of citizens and government officials to the recent officer-related shooting down in my current hometown of Hartford, VT.
Standing nearby was a local man who introduced himself in typical New England braggadocio upon seeing my Buffalo Bills hat. We exchanged barbs and I blasphemed Tom “Darth” Brady before he explained his reason for being at the event was out of concern for what “they” (motioning to the crowd) were there to say. I challenged him – did he really view these fellow Americans promoting freedom as the “other?” He quickly corrected it by stating he overheard a presenter referring to the police and it piqued his interest since his concern is police reform.
He introduced himself as Dan Towles, an ex-financial executive relocated to Montpelier by way of Connecticut, volunteering his struggle with what has been diagnosed as bi-polar disorder, a label he refuses to embrace. Dan, a declared life-long Democrat, seemed less concerned about a sudden outbreak of patriotism than the partisan polarization we are all feeling. Our conversation turned to police reform and it didn’t take long for us to agree that policing needs reforming but not defunding. It needs officers equipped to respond to the growing mental health crises in our country.
We commiserated about the blatant use of media, left and right-wing, using fear to manipulate followers. Dan has accepted his mental illness less as a crutch and more as an opportunity to advocate for others suffering with similar needs. His concern for Vermonters especially grows out of the isolation brought about by last year’s COVID lockdown policies. Dan volunteers for the Vermont Psychiatric Care facility as well as participates in NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness. NAMI is close to my heart as well. I attended their family to family course to help me learn more about a loved one in my life who suffers from a mental illness.
What started as contention over football and political ideologies turned to commiseration and camaraderie. We also connected on rugby. He played in college where I coached strength and conditioning for the New England College men’s rugby team, winner of a few national championships (take that Darth Brady).
We ended our conversation with some discussion of the Bible. Don grew up in a strong Congregational family and has leaned on his Christian upbringing to deal with his trauma. We agreed the Bible is a treasure trove of wisdom when applied honestly, and an arsenal for deception when mishandled, and how much we’d like to see people turn back to it and the God who gave it to us to help the brokenness in our country, some of which the rally was there to address. A cheerful handshake with a short goodbye, and off I went to smiles all around, including Chief Peete offering me his card and another offer to take ownership of my dog in case I tire of him. I told him he was welcome to come visit Ryno whenever he’s in the Hartford area.
Surveying the lawn out front of the capitol building I replayed the echoes of the speakers I wasn’t able to listen to fully as I spoke to Chief Peete and Dan. “Freedom,” “government,” “tyrants,” “criminal,” “constitution,” “Vermont” were repeated throughout the presentations, for varying reasons. The occasional applause broke out, the kind I’ve grown used to in New England: reserved, so as not to betray actual enthusiasm.
As I strode down the stairs I approached a man and his incredibly fit partner holding a sign in the shape of a gravestone commemorating the death of a young man at the hands of Antifa. Out of respect to the speakers they declined to comment but offered me a vaccine exemption form and thanked me for stopping by.
My next stop was to meet two kindly older women surrounded by red, white and blue with clipboards petitioning for Newport maks-free store owner Michael Desautels to recoup the damages cost by Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and flyers to see the Sept. 10-11 Eric Mataxas and Gordon Chang event.
Polite conversation ensued. I was informed of the importance of listening to these men speak on the dangers of the encroaching communism, and reading their books, which were available in stacks on their tables. It felt very much like a farmers market only instead of vegetables and macramé they were selling freedom, faith and fighting against tyranny.
The next table over was put together by the Convention of States (COS) where I met Denver Wilson, who shared his story of waking up to government overreach and corruption in a family who seemed unaware or uninterested in doing anything about it. Like church, he’d found an extended family in the patriots who shared his concerns. Though I am familiar with COS I asked him to give me the elevator pitch. Which is, Article 5 of the United States Constitution is the safety valve for a moment like we’re in, where government has turned against the people and no longer respects our authority or responds to our wishes, especially in the three areas polls show we all, Republican and Democrat, independent and otherwise, agree need reform, namely:
- Term limits
- Balanced budget with reduced wasteful spending
- Fewer regulatory controls
Avoiding the heat, Ryno took some shade where I overheard Denver speaking to a young woman, hesitant to share her name as she offered insight into a variety of sources of information that can help elucidate the real challenges we face from on high. She reminded me of the thirtyish, female Vermont equivalent of Alex Jones. She shared vast stores of arcane sources of knowledge, academic and otherwise, belying an autodidactic education sorely lacking in the general population. We chatted for a while as she admired Ryno’s friendliness, and then asked to take the mic and share a few sources of information with the crowd.
Organic, practical, communal and united, this group is what America still represents to many. Less a global power built on military might and hegemonic assertion of corporatist conquest, this group seemed more concerned with America the experiment for the tired, the poor, the meek and hard working unafraid of freedom and its responsibilities, and willing to share it with others willing to join in the experiment rather than fundamentally change it for a globalist vision.
Discourse is critical, and there was plenty of it on Saturday, from a variety of standpoints. However, truth has not left the building no matter what the post-modern lefties would have you believe. Truth still exists. It underpins our republic.
This rally represents a battle, not just with agents of government, but with evil masquerading as good. They are masters of deception, dark-hearted promisers of illuminated thinking, and captains of the good ship Utopia. Utopia, at its root, literally means “nowhere”. That is where your government is taking you with this New World Order agenda your fellow Vermonters are wise to and are taking their time and effort to point out. United they agree, the emperor has no clothes. Although nowadays, I think even amoral leftists aren’t worried if everybody is naked, so long as they’re wearing their masks.
Patriotic Vermonters who spoke up for those abused by government are urging you to take off your mask and those blinding your neighbors, and join the fight to keep your freedoms and the promises found only in America.
Tomorrow in Vermont Daily Chronicle: excerpts from speakers at the Patriot Rally