Protesters in Burlington demand ceasefire, war negotiations in Ukraine

Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 6:38 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2023 at 4:48 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Protesters gathered on Burlington’s Church Street Wednesday morning for a rally opposing the war in Ukraine. More than 30 people marched up Church Street to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office to demand the U.S. stop sending aid to Ukraine as the country defends itself against the Russian invasion.

Cars and buses tried to maneuver around anti-war protestors sitting on Cherry Street Wednesday morning. “Most of the people on that bus wanted to get to work. This is not the place to do this, come on,” said Connor Page, a commuter.

Duncan Nichols, with the Vermont Peace and Anti-War Coalition, says the action was intended to send a message. “The consequences of a proxy war with Russia are beyond irresponsible,” he said.

The group didn’t stay long. Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad says his officers helped keep them safe for as long as they could. “We’ve made certain these people can exercise their First Amendment rights safely -- in that we have closed off this section of Cherry Street, but we do not currently have the resources to address whatever it is they are or are not asking police to do in regards to their protest,” he said.

The protestors demanded a meeting with Senator Sanders to urge him to cease support for funding to Ukraine, despite Russia being the aggressor. “It’s not our job to draw geographical lines. Our job is to seek peace, seek negotiation, use the power we have -- which we have been avoiding -- there have been no negotiations at all,” Nichols said.

Others hope the billions spent abroad will instead be used to fight homelessness and the opiate crisis. “The amount of money going to Ukraine for what I think could be a negotiated settlement just seems obscene, so that’s why I’m out here,” said Rich Gollub.

Counter-protestors in support of Ukraine and the war against Russia were also on hand, including Ukrainian Americans. “The time and the way to peace is for Russia to leave Ukraine, and the war could be over tomorrow,” said Marasha Huber of Waterbury.

“There is nothing peaceful about Ukraine right now. People are dying there every single day,” said Kateryna Snitsar, who fled from the Ukranian city of Bucha in May. She says if the U.S. stops funding the war, Ukraine will continue to fight. “If we are not going to get any weapons, there is less help for us, less opportunity to fight, more death, more loss that’s loss for everybody. If we lose, who’s going to be next.”

Senator Sanders was in Washington Wednesday, but he sent a statement to protestors. “Putin is currently unwilling to engage in good faith talks. If and when Russia and Ukraine are prepared to negotiate, the U.S. should do what it can to facilitate those talks. The U.S. should support a just peace in Ukraine, based on the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and international law,” he said.

Protesters also descended on Senator Sanders’ Washington office, and according to Code Pink, 11 activists there were arrested.