BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Protests kicked off Sunday at the 36th annual meeting of the New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers, even before the talks got under way.
An estimated 500 to 600 people attended a rally at City Hall on Sunday before marching through downtown to protest government policies toward the environment, immigrants and refugees, and the economy, protest organizers said.
Protesters were also creating a "human oil spill" at Battery Park to decry the possibility that tar sands oil from western Canada might be shipped across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Members of the Occupy movement were also holding a regional gathering at the park in the afternoon and evening.
Regional leaders attending the governors and premiers conference were expected to begin arriving in Burlington on Sunday for meetings Monday.
The protest events, dubbed "Convergence on the Conference," also included a community dinner and presentations from different groups on Sunday, with more events scheduled Monday.
While protesters speak out on a variety of issues ranging from power transmission lines and oil pipelines to Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, the governors and premiers and their staffs will be meeting "behind closed doors" to discuss issues that have wide-ranging impacts, said Avery Pittman of Burlington, spokeswoman for the protest groups.
"It’s clear the governors and premiers are meeting to talk about trade policy, energy and infrastructure," Pittman said. "They’re definitely prioritizing profits and money-making over the needs of the people or the impact these proposals will have on us, the people who live on the land and are affected by the decisions."