Vt. Communities Speak Out Against Racism and Acts of Hate

Several troubling incidents in recent days have spotlighted the need to address racism, say people affected by the acts

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Vermont communities are speaking out against hate following a series of bias-motivated acts.

In Jeffersonville, a discovery on the side of Jen Bishop's business has her telling her state it's time to stop thinking that generally peaceful, open-minded Vermont is somehow immune from racism.

"That storyline needs to change," Bishop told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

Stickers and posters from what Vermont State Police have labeled a nationally active white supremacist group recently popped up along Main Street in the village, including on Bishop's building.

NECN and NBC10 Boston have chosen to not publish the group's name and to blur its materials—to deny giving attention to a manifesto calling for a country that is homogenous in skin color and beliefs.

A rainbow flag logo at the United Church of Hinesburg was targeted with a sticker, too. That discovery came during LGBT Pride Month.

"This is the time to actually speak out against discrimination and not be fearful, but actually confront these injustices where they're taking place and work to make things better," said Rev. Jared Hamilton of the United Church of Hinesburg.

The Pride Center of Vermont said it is buoyed by the fact it knows it is on the right side of history—unlike whoever put up the stickers.

"We need to break down these systems that are constantly harming our communities," said Justin Marsh of the Pride Center of Vermont.

Capt. Garry Scott of Vermont State Police said stickers have been left in parts of Chittenden, Franklin, Rutland, and Lamoille Counties. However, Scott noted others may have gone unreported, with people simply tearing them down before authorities learned about them.

Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday renewed a call to all Vermonters, urging them to look inward.

"We consider ourselves not racist in Vermont," Scott noted. "I would say that about myself—I'm not a racist. But that's not enough anymore. What we need to do is be anti-racist."

In South Burlington, the slashing of a Black Lives Matter banner at the Tuttle Middle School is under investigation as a hate crime, according to Chief Shawn Burke of the South Burlington Police Department.

Burke provided Vermont news organizations with surveillance images of what he said appears to be a Toyota Prius showing up at the school, with a lone person getting out to slash the banner.

South Burlington Police believe the driver of this car slashed a Black Lives Matter banner. Courtesy: South Burlington Police

Calling the act "simply reprehensible" and a "clear illustration of racism" in South Burlington, Burke asked anyone with information about the crime to call (802) 846-4111.

Facilitators of SOAR, Students Organized Against Racism, repaired the display Wednesday and urged dialogue in families.

"Accept each other, love each other, speak up when you see a wrong and be willing to put yourself out there," middle school educator Gary Russell said. "Those are all noble things for 6th graders, 7th graders, 8th graders—even adults."

Russell said advantages and comforts that can come with white privilege are another topic families should strongly consider addressing, especially at this moment in the country.

Back in Jeffersonville, Jen Bishop vowed to turn her anger and sadness over those white supremacy stickers into action, encouraging everyone to strive for a better Vermont.

"I think we show up when we are asked to show up, listen to people who haven't always been listened to, and support them in ways they need to be supported," Bishop said of people who felt hurt or threatened by recent acts of hate in Vermont communities.

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