A couple hundred or so people gathered at the Statehouse today to protest the proposed budget cuts. "Save Our Services. Save Our State," they chanted amid the snowbanks on the Statehouse steps, decrying cuts at a time when people need more services.
Before the noon-time rally, most of them funneled into the Statehouse. There, they were met by security guards asking to look into bags. One of the wonderful things about the Vermont Statehouse is that this sort of screening is not a regular thing.
Tuesday's rally, though, was bringing in an unknown number of people from a variety of groups, said Sergeant-at-Arms Francis Brooks, so he brought out the extra measures. He added security personnel from the state Buildings and General Services Department and from state police, including Oak, the bomb-sniffing black lab whose main function seemed to be that he was the cutest thing in the building.
Brooks, who had early in his tenure considered more permanent security measures at the Statehouse, said he beefs up the scrutiny for large gatherings, including the inaugural address. He didn't do it for Friday's even larger gathering of gay-marriage proponents because he and the organizers weren't expecting quite that many people, he said.
Brooks acknowledged he'd gotten some grief Tuesday from legislators for the searches.
"Change, whether it's right or not is absolutely the hardest thing for this building," Brooks said.
- Terri Hallenbeck