Protesters frustrated by Wall Street bailout

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(Host) Frustration with plans to bail out Wall Street has spilled onto Main Streets across America.

In Vermont, protesters raised signs – and their voices – against the federal government spending 700 billion dollars to rescue banks.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd was at their protest in Burlington on Thursday.

(Protesters chanting)

(Sneyd) Several dozen people turned up in Burlington during the evening commute.

They stood on Main Street as a symbol of working people, who they say are being left out of the Wall Street bailout.

Ilya Sheyman is with the political group True Majority and helped organize the Burlington rally.

(Sheyman) "This spot is perfect in Burlington because it symbolizes what we’re talking about. We need relief from Main Street and that’s why we’re gathering on Main Street instead of Wall Street. We want to show the contrast we’re providing for the wealthy people on Wall Street and the relief right here in towns like Burlington for ordinary Americans trying to keep their homes.”

(Sneyd) The Burlington event was held in front of a sculpture that spells out the word democracy in granite.

Similar demonstrations were planned in Rutland, Bellows Falls and Montpelier – and in 250 other cities around the country.

As the protests got under way, administration and congressional leaders gathered in Washington to work out details.

A few dozen people of all ages gathered in Burlington to protest the bailout negotiations.

Kathie Voigt Walsh of Jericho joined them.

(Voigt Walsh) "I have a huge fear about blank checks to anybody who put us in this position in the first place. I’m afraid I don’t trust the administration in the first place and having them tell me that we need to do something like this right away at the expense of the American people, I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy it at all.”

(Sneyd) The consensus among demonstrators was that Washington needs to pay as much attention to the needs of ordinary Americans as it’s paid to corporate executives.

Tristin Adie of Shelburne was hand-lettering a sign.

(Sneyd) "What are you putting on your signs?”

(Adie) “Money for jobs and schools. Not for Wall Street.”

(Sneyd) Adie looked up from her sign-making and listed all of the Wall Street firms that have gotten a cash infusion from the federal government.

(Adie) "Putting $75 billion into AIG, at the same time that they’ve said for years that the government doesn’t have money for things like universal health care or better schools or job training programs or any number of things that would benefit ordinary people. So I feel like it’s time to start saying enough is enough. This is certainly a crisis, but when is the government going to start putting real money to real people’s needs?”

(Protesters chant)

(Sneyd) Many of the demonstrators say they’re not settling just for chanting and raising signs on the side of the street.

They’ve also called congressional offices. Senator Bernie Sanders’ office says he’s collected tens of thousands of signatures on a letter protesting the original bailout proposal.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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