MONTPELIER, Vt. – President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes.
A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.
"This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do," said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive.
As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont.
The town meeting, an annual exercise in which residents gather to vote on everything from fire department budgets to municipal policy, requires about 1,000 signatures to place a binding item on the agenda.
The measure asks: "Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?"
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The press office did not immediately respond to an e-mail.
Support for the measure is far from universal, even in Vermont, where the state Senate voted earlier this year to support impeaching the president. Anti-war rallies are regular occurrences here, and "Impeach Bush" bumper stickers are common.
"I would not be supportive of it," said Stephen Steidle, a member of the town's selectboard, which oversees its government.
"It's well outside of our ability. From my perspective, the Brattleboro Selectboard needs to focus on the town and the things that need to be done here."
Daims has been circulating documents that claim the community acquires a "universal jurisdiction" to take such steps "when governments breach their highest duties."
"We have the full power to issue indictments, conduct trials, incarcerate offenders and do all other acts which Independent jurisdictions may of right do," the statement says.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, a Democrat whose office has repeatedly sued the Bush administration over environmental issues, called the move "of very dubious legality."
"I have not seen the proposal, and I've done no legal research on any of the issues," Sorrell said. "But at first blush, if this passed, they'd have really uphill sledding trying to have it be legal and enforceable."