Action Alerts and Updates
With over 80,000 signatures to our petition for the termination of their government authority, officers Cory Campbell, Jason Bellavance, and Joseph Corrow remain employed by the Burlington Police Department.
In May of 2019, we began asking our community to “think twice” before calling or engaging the cops. Since then, we have been building towards the explicit launch of our Think Twice Campaign.
Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington’s vision is to see the greater Burlington area transformed into a place where all Black people thrive bodily, socially, and economically. Grounded by this vision and the lived realities of poor Black folx in our community, we demand the following of power in the Greater Burlington area:
The institution of policing was created by racial capitalism in order to protect profit. Not to serve and protect people. Calling the police to solve issues created or made worse by poverty, racism, and other patterns of violence and trauma does not work because policing and incarceration feed these very cycles of harm. Police violence in the community can be reduced by not inviting police into situations that require de-escalation, first-aid, trauma-informed problem solving, or community engagement. Policing is inherently violent and we will not achieve collective liberation or healing by reforming a system rooted in oppression. Police are not an appropriate resource in schools, social work, or community building. The journey to their abolition is long overdue and should be nothing less than intentional, swift, and fully supported by all institutions that consider themselves invested in the well-being of our communities.
Many institutions exist to support populations police often target. These institutions have a responsibility to refrain from calling the police. We DEMAND the Howard Center (including First Call), COTS, ANEW Place, and Spectrum Youth and Family Services terminate all relationships with law enforcement, including no longer having social service assessments of any kind occur at police stations.
Our collective resources should be put into building our culturally conscious skills to take care of each other, rather than expecting a historically dangerous force to support our safety. We DEMAND our cities & towns provide the public with access to free first aid training that is not done by the cops.
Visitors and residents in our communities, with or without housing, should not have to spend money in order to simply use the bathroom without concern of intimidation or criminalization. We DEMAND public & accessible 24/7 bathrooms on Church Street.
The detainment of our community members who have committed “crimes” related to their poverty and survival is unjust and must come to an urgent end. Putting people in prison does not stop them from facing the abuses of our society; it produces and inflicts further abuse. We must stop seeing prison as a place to “put” the problems of poverty out of sight so that we do not have to confront them. This begins by removing the criminalization of occupying public spaces. Things such as loitering, panhandling, soliciting, camping, sleeping, and public urination and defecation do not cause harm to the wellbeing of our community. These things are fruits of a sick society, not of dispensable people. WE DEMAND the decriminalization of all non–violent “crimes” and cutting current sentences for all crimes in half.
Investing in services that actually serve our community’s safety and connection should in no ways be connected to systems that endanger our community. We DEMAND public health services (like fire and rescue) be funded separately from Police Departments. WE DEMAND the removal of cops from all community organization boards. WE DEMAND no non–police city or public meetings be held at the police stations.
As we continue the work of abolishing the institution of policing, it is critical that our community members have easy access to complaints filed against officers without having to waste unnecessary resources. Community members also deserve to know what information this institution is collecting and maintaining on them. WE DEMAND ensured public access to all data collected by police departments free of charge.
Our youth are dangerously conditioned to interact with police under false pretenses, long before they learn the true history of policing and its generational impact on our communities. For many Black & brown students, the presence of police on their school campuses puts them on a fast track to entering directly into the school to prison pipeline. WE DEMAND no more police workshops or visits to schools and the immediate removal of all School Resource Officers.
Our community funds are better spent investing in the health, more accurate knowledge of history, and literacy of our community, rather than in our control and dehumanization. We DEMAND diverting 80% of funds from police departments to permanently end homelessness and provide educational funding for:
To get involved & stay informed, visit: http://blmgb.org/
Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington delivered the following statement in front of a crowd of over a thousand people protesting the murder of George Floyd, and the countless other Black people killed by police. Dismiss! Disarm! Disband the police! The whole damn system is guilty as hell.
Here we are once again, gathered after injustice, after horrifying injustice. Once again, a new stream of bodies reaching back before Emmett Till, now lay before us!
Say their names! Repeat after me!
Ahmaud Aubrey – Ahmaud Aubrey. He was jogging in his neighborhood in Georgia on February 23 when he was killed in a shooting after being chased by Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son.
Breonna Taylor – Breonna Taylor. She was sleeping in her bed in Kentucky on March 13 when she was killed by being shot 8 times by plainclothes officer Brett Hankison.
George Floyd – George Floyd. He was buying groceries in Minnesota on May 25th when he was killed by officer Derek Chauvin putting his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes. There were 2 other officers involved.
Tony McDade – Tony McDade. He was outside of an apartment complex in Florida on May 27th when he was shot by a white police officer.
It should be clear by now, that the police is a violent institution, utterly resistant to reform. It should be easy for you to understand why you shouldn’t call the police on black people. If you’re standing here after all this, and you still don’t get that by calling the police on a black person for dumb, petty reasons, that you have signed on for that person to be murdered; we’re done talking to you.
The murder of black people by the police state and their white citizen handmaidens has been ongoing for actual centuries. We do not have the capacity for people who do not listen.
Which Side Are You On? Which Side Are You On?
To the white people who feel anxious and unsafe about coming to protests and riots – CHOOSE A SIDE!
This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Which side did you take during the Rodney uprising? Which side did you take during the Baltimore uprising? Were you nuiance trolling travon martin’s lynching? Which side are you on when Black and brown people have feared police violence and violence from racist white people for the history of this country?. Enough of this liberal “we like Black lives”, “that we agree with you in the goal you seek, but cannot agree with your methods of direct action”– no more fence sitting.
Which side are you on, for real?
If a white woman is having a really bad day and wants to call the police, she could, and another black life would be snuffed outYou could be a birdwatcher in Central Park and a woman could threaten to call the police and say “there’s an African American man threatening my life” because you asked her to leash her dog — as if the police is her personal assassination squad. Black people have to live with this, every damn day.
Which Side Are You On?
What happens in MN isn’t another person’s problem, it’s our problem because it could happen to any of us, and it has. We have dealt with police violence here recently, and it has gone unaddressed — We demanded the termination of Officers Cory Campbell, Jason Bellavance, and Joseph Corrow from the Burlington Police Department this month, last year. Those people are still working in this police department. They are still working. They still have jobs. As police, with a gun, and the authority to stop, and use any level of violence as they deem fit.
Which Side Are You On?
The reason why people are rioting and why we’re protesting is because our sense of Black love within families and within friendships in Black community can be taken at any moment.
That if you are a Black person in this country you walk around with the constant knowledge that your life could be snuffed out for no God Damn reason.
Every day is a constant reminder that our lives and the lives of those we care about most could be gone the next instant.
Which Side Are You On?
To the Black folks who are here, we may be living in different housing and different communities, but we have suffered through this together and we have suffered through this long enough.
Black Liver Matter of Greater Burlington Hosted a (Re)Watch Party of:
Racial Justice Has No Borders: Militarization in a time of Pandemic
More than 1000 people joined the stream live on April 6th, hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, Professor at Temple University. We had a small and engaged group watching the town hall and breaking out into discussions.
We watched sections of the Town Hall including three panels. Local activists and community members watched the panels together and engaged in discussion around the topics that arose and important take aways we noted.
Exploring the Crisis at Hand and the So Called ‘Solutions’ That are being Proposed 51:27 In this video.
One viewer loved that they identified the farcical nature of US rhetoric about the pandemic. Federal government seems to want to take on the pandemic with shiny new tanks, as Hoda said.
We need to try to unlearn how deep American exceptionalism is. It’s deeply embedded in the narrative.
How much there is to be diverted in terms of funding? Good that these women focused on how devastating US imperialism can be. For one viewer, this brought up quotes and writing by Audre Lorde, how similar things are now, and how we need to learn from the past.
Let’s look critically at how left leaning circles buy into this, how US exceptionalism and white supremacy permeates spaces.
USA military isn’t even its physical armies anymore. The empire maintained by fiscal control. US needs to shift to be a solidarity movement with international movements
Blockades & sanctions can be just as violent as armies. Cuba, Iran, Venezuela being shut out of fiscal systems because of Washington & London. Not able to sell resources and other countries fear working with US sanctioned countries.
They talked about how these systems were in place prior to crisis. It stood out when Krystal Two Bulls talked about how the government has criminalizing right to defend rights. Which systems are robust enough to remain post crisis? Krystal talking about militarizing police for the corporate profit. Look at how again and again, they prioritize corporate rights over people’s rights.
Relatives abroad and around the world are vulnerable. They are endangered because of corporate greed, we talked about this and asked, what does our country prioritize?
Reminder of that bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” What corporate interests are prioritized? Coke is so huge, not because Coke tastes good, but because the US forces it, supports it, also not able to drink safe water. Let’s not forget, profit reigns supreme even during pandemic.
When systems are not where they need to be to support everyone, it requires hero mentality, assuming people will have to step up versus making needed structural change.
Calling essential workers heroes to excuse not getting people hazard pay. Over and over again, we call them heroes but not give hazard pay. It’s so icky and messed up, look at how corporations embrace it – Applebees ads “thank you heroes”.
This displaces blame and promotes the savior mentality— this situation is not new. People who have access “help others” but end up displacing momentum – Basically fighting “Indian Wars” – when people become part of the army, already had own militia.
Don’t forget this history – the birth of US Police Force. Andrew Jackson got start in fighting in Indian War— This is not new!!! Seminal combat experience fighting indigenous resistance as well as the Mexican American war.
It can be hard to conceptualize a demilitarized future. Nothing really changes for tribes and recognition. Structurally things don’t change, but need too
Are we going to talk about black and brown and poor people are recruited into the military? History, structures and institutions. What structures are failing?
If indeed, we have collectively embraced notion of being essential right now – what does that mean? People who are essential have to support these failing systems. One viewer thought of times when workers were not wearing masks, they are essential enough to keep working, but not essential enough to be given masks. The narrative is powerful. Corporations like Dunkin Donut “keep America running” as slogan but are they really essential? What does this teach young workers when they are considered essential in this way?
Our discussion began with the prompt – what can we envision for a more just future?
Thinking about what we are against and what we are showing up for. We have inherited this system. Neo liberalism and racial capitalism set us up for this crisis. When we do this right, mutual aid allows us to feel uplifted. Not doing for the clout, for social capital, but because of community. We talked about Global reparations, should that be a part of the conversation. Today, we don’t talk much about the beauty of all these countries only the wars. Foolishly, it’s perceived that America is the only country able to handle things. We forget or we see it erased, that every single day people sustain and survive across difference culture. We are stuck in a cyclical industry of destruction. Society wants us to buy into the idea that US needs to save people and help them survive (while simultaneously causing harm)
What can help people see past the empire they live in?
“People have a right to resist their regimes… to be free.”- Rahma Kudaimi
Can we rethink what it means to be in solidarity, no need for perfection and intense planning. People lose their lives in resistance, how do we acknowledge that struggle and how it is worth it? How do we look through US propaganda (what is grassroots revolution?)And how do we move past white supremacy culture that we are subject to and that is normalized in this country?
Can we get out of the structures and have a different way of living that doesn’t marginalize others. Thinking back to earlier panel with US resource from other countries, start acknowledging that. We need to seeing that we are not an island
Can we have a socioeconomic system not based on zero sum game of invading others for resources and wealth?
Can we remove Roman empire style of wealth acquisition? Recognize this obsolete system and invest in a system not interested in hoarding. We may need the current collapse of supply system, we may need to go swimming in some different water
These panels help, it help to hear from voices of impacted people and community and learning together.
Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington sponsored the Primero de Mayo Car Rally along with 36 other organizations1. This event drew thousands of people who came together to show solidarity with essential workers and lift up workers’ demands in a time of crisis. A member of the BLM GB collective spoke and read a collective statement.
Read on for our statement about people victimized by our criminal punishment system, problematic police power in this crisis, and a call for people to get involved, help your communities, and help create a new normal that is concerned with the survival and well-being of us all.
1Including Justicia Migrante, Burlington Tenants Union, Vermont Interfaith Action, 350 Vermont, Vermont Workers’ Center, Champlain Valley DSA, Rights & Democracy, Rural Vermont, Community Voices for Immigrant Rights, Rights & Democracy VT, Vermont State Labor Council, VT National Lawyers Guild, Peace and Justice Center
Watch the Speech: Here on Justicia Migrante’s Facebook Live – go to 1:36:11 in the stream.
We stand here outside CRCF on International Workers Day and we acknowledge all the people victimized by our criminal punishment system.
We see their humanity, and the crimes committed against them by our racist systems that prioritize capitalism over people. We see their rights being systematically ignored every day.
We would be remiss if we didn’t address the health crisis before us. In order to address it, we must point to the series of crises that the police state has used to permanently erode civil rights and establish new, repressive methods of exploitation and profit.
This isn’t the first time the state has taken advantage of their governmental powers in a time of crisis to serve the interest of profit & not the well-being of the people they claim to represent. 9/11 was used as justification for the AUMF, the Authorization of Military Force, which brought about two forever wars, surveillance institutions that eroded the practical use of the fourth amendment, and the creation of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security. Hurricane Katrina was used to level low-income communities and replace them with wealthy private communities, and the recession of 2008 was exploited and used to consolidate wealth even further.
Over the last month, Vermont police have been granted emergency powers to fine and even dole out jail time to people for violating stay-at-home orders–punishments that they can enforce at their own discretion, with little-to-no oversight. COVID19 has been used as an excuse to deepen the state’s and the nation’s reliance on punishment and violence through police.
Crises only make existing power structures worse, deepening pre-existing inequity.
Don’t forget: Our country and our state have prioritized military and police spending over housing, and continue to do so. In 2019, Burlington spent over 20% of its general fund on Policing. This is over 12 million dollars more than it spent on Housing, Community Development, and Community Justice combined.2
Don’t forget: Black people make up a little more than 1% of Vermont, but make up 8.5% of Vermont’s prison population.
Don’t forget: Black folks are homeless in Vermont 6x more than white folks.
Don’t forget: the purpose of our military and police is not to “liberate” people or make our community “safer.”
Our police have invented new crimes, expanding what it means to criminalize homeless people simply by criminalizing being outside. They have destroyed hand washing stations, disturbed mutual aid food distributions, and interfered with our ability to help each other. They have created new victims.
Don’t fool yourself, police will disproportionately apply punishments to people who look like trouble to cops. Who do you think that means in Vermont? The low wage person of color working long hours. The youth constantly harassed by the police, The homeless who have very few safe places to sleep, and those who are not physically or mentally able.
Police and prisons exist to protect the profit and property of business, not the prosperity of our communities. Not to protect people or public safety — no time is this more evident than in a season where prisons and jails have had the highest rates of a deadly pandemic. Nearly 10,000 incarcerated people have tested positive across the country and the number of cases is doubling each week3. 38 inmates and 18 DCF workers have tested positive for the virus in Vermont4, with 150 tests pending results, and not counting our outsourced prisoners in Mississippi and numbers in ICE detention. According to the Marshall Project, the prison infection rate eclipses the spread among the general population by more than 150 percent3.
Outside the prison walls, runaway economic catastrophe is showing us how many workers have been existing just steps away from this system, even before this specific crisis.
The most vulnerable populations are finally getting some of the government social support they’ve always deserved, because the nation and the state are seeing more people than ever need food, housing, and income– and the government can’t deny these needs any more.
Before the onset of COVID-19 and now, poor folx, black and brown folks, folx with disabilities are the most likely to live paycheck to paycheck. What happens when the paychecks stop? We are the most likely to be essential workers or to be without homes, without shelter, without food, without the means to survive and the support systems.We are facing an uncertain future and significant threat from the people who pretend to work to keep us safe.
We are more likely to be fined for violating stay at home orders.
And we are more likely to be put into prisons.
The criminal punishment system has always been dangerous to our humanity, to our bodies, to our society, to our movement to create a liberated society.
Don’t forget: This nation, this state, and their police, do not have some higher moral authority to commit violence — they are just given power by the government. We, the people, determine what is moral and what is right, and it’s been proven time & time again that we can’t trust state powers to make ethical decisions for us.
We have an ask for those who are here, who hear this, who read this – we want you to get involved and help us help our community. The criminal punishment system won’t. The cops won’t.
Contribute to healing, housing, and food funds, while talking about the structures that make these funds necessary. Challenge local government priorities, responses, and budgets. Sign up to stand together. We can refuse to “go back to normal” and instead create a new normal — a normal that is concerned with the survival and well-being of every person in our community.
Our ask, of all of you today, is simple: trust your neighbors. Trust them to know what is best for themselves. Build relationships with them, however you can. We can, and we must, take care of ourselves and each other — and we can do it without police.
Article on Socialist Resurgence.com: A People’s Bailout: May Day in Burlington, Vermont https://socialistresurgence.org/2020/05/04/a-peoples-bailout-may-day-in-burlington-vermont/?fbclid=IwAR0udU61RH3nhhC3-GHyelyXKfMrm5i5JKlau9SnX4WY83KLdJnQ6kAWoBo
Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington condemns the police brutality of the Burlington Police Department (BPD) – both the brutality shown in body camera footage released in the last week, and ongoing brutality that continues to go insufficiently recorded or documented. The footage from two police incidents on September 8th and September 9th, 2018 reveal unprovoked attacks by police officers on three Black men1. These assaults, along with the homicide of Douglas Kilburn at the hands of one of the involved officers2, make it clearer than ever that the BPD is bringing danger into our community. In fact the presence of officers Joseph Corrow, Jason Bellavance, and Cory Campbell still threatens the safety of our community today.
Police brutality is nothing new to the Burlington Police Department. We hold up these three officers, Corrow, Bellavance, and Campbell, as examples of the prevalence of violence and excessive use of force in BPD. Rather than being a few “bad apples,” they demonstrate a pattern of behavior that is indicative of not just the culture of violence and racial bias within the BPD, but also reflects that of the broader US culture. This pattern has resulted in similar incidents in other police departments across the nation, reflecting the deeper, unaddressed history of how the policing institution is an oppressive structure.
The legal system itself, which the police uphold, is designed to maintain the power dynamics that oppress primarily poor people of color in the United States. The first “police” in the United States included “slave patrols” who would chase down escaped slaves to return them to their white “owners.”3 Beyond the institution of slavery, examples include police upholding the “laws” by arresting Black people for things such as loitering, unemployment, and theft. Their forced labor was, and still is, used by the state in exploitative and dangerous convict leasing programs for state-owned and private companies.
Although the narrative is that police are upholding laws to maintain an acceptable moral standard for society, this has never been the case and is certainly not the case today. Since the 1980s, the “War on Drugs” has given increasingly militarized police forces the license to search, seize, and turn over so-called offenders in the name of the law. Combined with the system of mass incarceration, this process has separated thousands of people from their families and communities, in addition to causing them bodily harm. This culture of white supremacy in which all US police officers are inevitably steeped becomes weaponized against black and brown people in moments of stress and escalation.
Here in Vermont, freedom is being legally taken away from people of color due to the over-policing, racial-profiling, inequitable detentions and court diversion options, as well as the “Rule of Law,” where multiple offenses lead to “no choice” arrests and prosecutions. There is little to no care or concern for the needs and wellness of “offenders,” including food, mental health, education, healing, and community restoration.
The institution of the US police does not only kill and dehumanize marginalized groups and individuals repeatedly targeted by the police. Working for violently oppressive and dehumanizing systems harms and dehumanizes the officers themselves, as well as bystanders who witness violent police encounters. Just as the profession of coal mining often leads to severe illness, physical disability, and death, we argue that the profession of policing causes physical and mental harm, often resulting in unaddressed PTSD, domestic violence, and suicide4. As such, our call is to take collective action to work toward minimizing the need for police officers, and ultimately eliminating the institution of police as we know it. Rather than working for reforms that embed police deeper in our society, such as more training and additional officers, we want police officers replaced with more social workers and other safer alternatives5.
Chief of Police Brandon Del Pozo argued in his press conference on May 3 that the BPD has taken more measures than other police departments to address excessive use of force and racial disparities in policing6. The measures he cited included implementing body cameras, as well as providing implicit bias and de-escalation training. Clearly, the additional training and equipment have not prevented violent encounters like the ones seen on the body camera footage from last September or the recent homicide of Douglas Kilburn. No amount of implicit bias or de-escalation training will change the role of the police or the effect of policing on targeted populations. More police officers, as Del Pozo has recommended, will not make our communities safer.
It is obvious to anyone watching the videos that body slamming, shoving, and forcing people to the ground is not morally acceptable. Although police have a position of power that allows them to commit violence legally, their consistent patterns of violence against poor people and people of color is not acceptable or justified. We cannot rely on the rule of law, which values “law and order” over human lives, to give us our moral code. We also cannot trust the laws to protect us from the people who enforce them. Instead, we must hold our community leaders accountable for introducing improved systems that truly achieve justice and do not rely on the broken system of policing.
In addition to the need for structural change, those of us who are not police officers or part of the legal “justice” system must commit to community advocacy to end police brutality, eliminate the need for policing as we know it, and implement alternatives that increase safety in our community. We must all take responsibility for how we interact with these institutions and each other. This includes seeing and acknowledging the risk of violent and irreversible outcomes of calling the police, particularly for Black people, and “thinking twice” before making that call. We must consider, who is really in more danger? Because of local and national histories of abuse, it is necessary to instill and maintain a healthy suspicion of police departments. We know that we cannot abolish the police overnight. Therefore, our question is: what can be done now to ultimately help decrease the number of police and substitute healthier and safer alternatives for justice in our communities? Our demands are as follows:
Dear Community Members, please stand with us by signing this petition: