07/05/2020

BLMGB Think Twice Campaign Demands

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 nonviolentcrimesand 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 nonpolice 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

  • free school breakfasts & lunches
  • technological infrastructure, and
  • the transition to proficiency based grading, lower class sizes, and decolonized education.

To get involved & stay informed, visit: http://blmgb.org/

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/30/2020

Protest for George Floyd Statement

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.

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington organizer raising fist in front of protest crowd.

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.

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/16/2020

ReWatch Party Racial Justice Has No Borders

Black Liver Matter of Greater Burlington Hosted a (Re)Watch Party of:
Racial Justice Has No Borders: Militarization in a time of Pandemic

Town Hall Webinar

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.

Panel One:
Examining the Impact of The Militarism Here in the US and Abroad

Exploring the Crisis at Hand and the So Called ‘Solutions’ That are being Proposed 51:27 In this video.

Panelists:

  • Hyun Lee – Women Cross DMZ and Korea Peace Now 
  • Mahnker Dahneih- Organizer at Freedom Inc (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Melody McCurtis – Metcalfe Park Community Bridges (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
  • Hoda Katebi- No War ICampaign Iranian American Writer, Community Organizer (Chicago, Illinois)

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.

Panel Two:
What are the harms of Militarism and what solutions are currently proposed?

1:15:26 In this video

Panelists

  • Brittany DeBarros – About Face: Veterans Against War
  • Krystal Two Bulls – Voices of the Sacred
  • Khury Petersen-Smith -Institute for Policy Studies

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?

Panel Three:
Why are these harms and failures really happening?

1:35:00 in this video

Panelists

  • Reece Chenault – Justice Before Peace
  • Barbara Ransby – Rising Majority
  • Ramah Kudaimi – War Resisters League – Resisting Airwars Network

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.


press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/01/2020

Our Speech at Primero de Mayo / May Day Car Rally for Essential Workers: Put People First

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

Sources

2https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CT/Budgets/Fiscal-Year-2020-Budget
3https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/04/24/tracking-the-spread-of-coronavirus-in-prisons
4https://doc.vermont.gov/covid-19-information-page

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/08/2019

Statement in Response to BTV Vermont Police Brutality

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:

  1. We demand the termination of Officers Cory Campbell, Jason Bellavance, and Joseph Corrow from the Burlington Police Department, as they are a threat to the safety of the community. They have displayed a pattern of violence without provocation or just cause, particularly targeted towards Black men.
  2. We demand these officers not be re-hired by another state or local department or agency in Chittenden County. Their abuse of power demonstrates that they are unsafe and should not be in any position of governmental authority in the county.
  3. We demand that all police operating in Chittenden County wear and consistently use body cameras, and that the free release of that footage to the public become mandatory. This includes the local police departments, the sheriff’s office, and the Vermont State Police that have jurisdiction over towns that do not have a local police force.
  4. We demand that the Burlington Police Department halt the hiring of new officers, and instead employ more social workers for the community. What our community needs is more support, not more violence. As the police officers of the BPD have shown an inability to de-escalate and an instinct of violence, their presence does not promote safety in our community.

Dear Community Members, please stand with us by signing this petition:
https://www.change.org/p/burlington-police-department-call-for-the-termination-of-burlington-police-officers-corrow-bellavance-and-campbell


1 https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2019/05/03/violence-caught-on-camera-leads-to-brutality-claims-against-burlington-cops

2 https://vtdigger.org/2019/04/10/death-burlington-man-punched-police-officer-ruled-homicide/

3 https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing

4 https://bluehelp.org/service/statistics/

5 https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2017/05/12/burlington-expand-police-force-1st-time-15-years/101466726/

6 https://www.facebook.com/OneNorthAvenue/videos/616638715468895

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
03/20/2019

Call for Public Independent Inquiry Into Bennington Criminal Justice System

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington is joining the ACLU of Vermont and over 20 other ally organizations, in calling for an independent inquiry into Bennington law enforcement.
The ACLU of Vermont and the NAACP organized this letter as part of an ongoing call for accountability and transparency by officials in the town of Bennington and others who have had a hand in investigating the threats made against Kiah Morris and her family. The letter calls for an through, transparent and independent inquiry by a law enforcement expert who can evaluate the circumstances surrounding this breakdown in this particular case, as well as the past and current policies and procedures within Bennington’s Police Department and criminal legal system.

Governor Phil Scott
109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609

Sent via email to:
Attorney General T.J. Donovan
109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609

March 18th, 2019

Re: Call for an independent and transparent inquiry into Bennington criminal justice system

Dear Governor Scott and Attorney General Donovan,

We, the undersigned organizations, are calling for a public inquiry into Bennington law enforcement practices following revelations that Bennington officials failed to disclose evidence directly related to the safety of Kiah Morris and her family to investigators with the Attorney General’s office.

Five months after the Attorney General declared a “breakdown in Bennington” and weeks after the revelations about evidence being withheld from investigations were made public, the people of Bennington are no closer to an understanding of exactly what happened, who in Bennington was aware of key evidence that had not been provided or acted on, or whether additional information was withheld from investigators. This is absolutely unacceptable.

The Town of Bennington has denied all wrongdoing, while at the same time agreeing to hire an outside law enforcement expert to investigate further. Any such investigation must be prompt, independent, transparent, and thorough. Additionally, it must encompass not only Bennington law enforcement’s policies and procedures, but also past and existing practices system-wide—including but not limited to Bennington PD. Anything less will be unacceptable.

Finally, because the Town of Bennington should not be given sole responsibility for an investigation of itself, we call for an additional, independent inquiry by state officials responsible for responding to allegations of bias and discrimination. In recent years, Vermont has passed multiple laws at addressing systemic racism – now is the time to show such initiatives were not merely symbolic and that the state is in fact committed to rooting out structural inequality and injustice wherever it exists.

Sincerely,

ACLU of Vermont
AFT-VT
Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington
Central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice
Constitutional Council of Accountability with Law Enforcement
Disability Rights Vermont
Elevate Justice 110
Fed Up Vermont
Green Mountain Crossroads
Green Mountain Solidarity with Palestine
Justice for All
LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont
MoveOn Manchester
Middlebury Showing Up for Racial Justice
Migrant Justice
Peace & Justice Center
Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund
Rights & Democracy
Rutland Area NAACP
The Root Social Justice Center
Transition Town Manchester
Upper Valley Showing Up for Racial Justice
Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
Women’s March Vermont
Windham County NAACP

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
12/05/2018

The Sanders Institute “Gathering”

An Open Letter from Vermont POC Racial Justice Community Organizers, Leaders, & Activists

Just 3 days ago, Tabitha Pohl-Moore and Steffen Guillom of the Rutland Area and Windham County NAACP Chapters, respectively, penned the following open letter that perfectly captures why we are continually working to “pop the bubble” of illusion that Vermont community and politics “has it figured out” when it comes to race. While Tabitha and Steffen penned the letter, it is the thought and feeling of many across the Green Mountain State. We hope this can be a call to action for the many well-meaning “progressives” throughout the state to walk the talk when it comes to organizing and building for true justice.

“Vermont is known as a progressive safe haven. However, some of our citizens struggle to connect personal experience to this sentiment. The purpose of publicizing these feelings is not to throw shade at the national progressive movement that Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to foster, but to point out that Vermonters in marginalized positions- be they poor, disabled, LGBTQ, people of color, indigenous, immigrant or non-mainstream in other facets of identity, help to create this state and make it what it is, yet still, we find ourselves excluded from the movement. This is an awkward juxtaposition. To call out when we have been excluded invariably elicits an accusation of sabotage, selfishness, or saltiness. To ignore it is to relegate ourselves to invisibility, thus fortifying the very systemic inequity the progressive movement works to deconstruct. It is with this in mind that I write the following:

At 9:15 PM on November 19th , Windham Area NAACP President Steffen Gillom sent me a text with a link to the VT Digger article announcing Senator Sanders’ 3-day progressive event in Burlington that was planned for this past week, it was followed by the question, “Did you know about this?” My first response was excitement. A progressive agenda that promised to raise an intersectional approach to ending injustice and oppression? In our backyard? As I read the roster and saw the names of my own idols like Cornel West, my initial response grew into hope. We would finally be heard and seen here in Vermont!  But, as I neared the end of the star-laden roster, I began to wonder.  How many leaders from Vermont were invited to speak? I reviewed the list again and saw only the name of Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman. Okay. One. Then I wondered how many justice leaders from Vermont had been invited.  Racial? None. Economic? None. LGBTQ? None. Immigrant rights? None. I read the article several times. Maybe I missed something? I thought progressive politics was about lifting the voices of common people. For a group that prides itself on grassroots organization, it seemed that this progressive event had forgotten its roots; the people of Vermont.

My heart began to sink as my curiosity grew. In his remarks, Senator Sanders said that this event was “not just to talk about economic issues, we’re here this weekend to be talking about racial and social justice. We’re here to be talking about ending, in all of its many and varied forms, institutional racism.”

How could Senator Sanders host what is supposed to be an intersectional, progressive event without inviting the very people whom he serves? If this is really about economic justice, where are the poor folks? If it is really about racial justice, why are there no local racial justice leaders?  Chief Don Stevens of the Abenaki?  Disability rights?  Where is Justicia Migrante? I don’t see them on the list.

I had a hard time believing that Senator Sanders would overlook the very people he serves as people who could speak to the issues.  I also know that the Senator’s people had no problem finding me to talk about race in Vermont the day before he met with NAACP President Derrick Johnson last May. But really, there are plenty of other leaders who could speak. Surely someone in Vermont had to have been invited and they just weren’t included in the article because, really. Who here compares to Danny Glover? So I took to social media and posted the article, tagging various justice leaders that I knew. No one knew about it. I asked groups like Rights and Democracy, who posted an article to advertise the event, if they would be speaking. I heard nothing. Even Kiah Morris, who was Vermont’s lone black woman in the legislature—that is, until the racist threats and harassment became so intolerable and intimidating that she not only had to withdraw from an uncontested race, but she stepped down from office just three months ago—was not invited.

I write this not to complain about the fact that none of us were invited; I write this to point out the hypocrisy of the situation. How do you say that you are a person of the people, how can you be “awoken”, in the words of Victor Lee Lewis, when you come home to Vermont to talk about justice and institutional oppression and don’t invite the very people your represent? In speaking with other folks, I learned that I am not the only one who has noticed this omission. We hope that we are missing something, but if we are not, this is a either a major oversight or just one more example of how institutional oppression looks, even among those who are progressive.”

Respectfully,

Tabitha Pohl-Moore
President, Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP

Steffen Glenn Gillom
President, Windham County Branch of the NAACP

Amanda Garces
Founder, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools

Curtiss Reed, Jr.
Executive Director, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity

Kiah Morris
Former State Representative

Katrina Battle
POC Caucus Coordinator, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington

Jabari Jones
Organizer, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington

Wafic Faour
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
Member, BLM of Greater Burlington

Marita Canedo
Migrant Justice

Shela Linton
Co-Coordinator BIPOC Caucus, Root Social Justice Center

Sha’an Mouliert
Co-Coordinator, I am Vermont Too

Mark Hughes
Exectutive Director, Justice for All

Beverly Little Thunder
Activist, founder of Kunsi Keya Tamakoce, Peace and Justice Board Member

Gemma Seymour
Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future

Nico Amador
Community Organizer, ACLU of Vermont

​Etan Nassredin-Longo
Co-chair, Fair and Impartial policing committee of the Vermont State Police Chair, Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel

In peace, hope, love, and active, energized solidarity,

 Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
12/05/2018

Solidarity with Migrant Justice

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington stands in solidarity with Migrant Justice in the fight against ICE and Border Patrol. We recognize that their struggle is our struggle and we are united in this fight.

Our vision of the Greater Burlington area is one where black folks can thrive bodily, socially, and economically. This cannot become a reality as long as our comrades are being targeted, monitored, and deported. This cannot become a reality as long as immigrants are criminalized and terrorized by ICE, border patrol, and our militarized police force. We join Migrant Justice in demanding #Not1More deportation and an end to the targeting of immigrants.

The Black Lives Matter movement has its origins in part in the struggle against the over-policing and monitoring of black folks. As more police officers enter our schools, and more canines and tactical gear enter our police departments, one must ask: Who is it that they are hunting? This excessive and growing police presence, coupled with increasingly militarized officers in areas with higher black and brown populations in Vermont is a thinly-veiled tactic to oppress and control people of color in Vermont. Over-policing inevitably leads to racial profiling, violence, and over-incarceration, leaving us with 1 in 14 black men and a disproportionate number of hispanic and latino people incarcerated in Vermont.

Greg Zullo was left on the side of the road in Rutland to walk 8 miles home after a stop the officer claimed was for a registration sticker hidden by snow. Eli Calvo Cruz was accosted by ICE while standing outside of a gas station and was put back at risk of being deported after an immigration judge agreed that he posed no danger to his community and should not be deported. Meanwhile Christopher Hayden, who has a history of racially motivated aggravated assault, continues to directly threaten the wellbeing of people of color right here in the Greater Burlington area without accountability.

Law enforcement in Vermont consistently dehumanize people of color while forgiving and protecting violent and racist white people. Officers cannot operate in a racially just manner when our policing system has never strayed from its roots of returning the contraband of escaped slaves to their white “owners.” And to arm those within that system under the myth of objectivity, in a society steeped in racialized oppression, is something not even the best implicit bias “training” can overcome.

The criminalization of people of color in Vermont will not stop without a struggle. Migrant Justice has stopped deportations and freed immigrants from detention, fought tirelessly to hold dairy farm owners accountable to safer working conditions through the Milk with Dignity Campaign, worked towards the separation of the police from border patrol and ICE, and more. We support their work in fighting for the liberation of immigrants in Vermont.

We call on folks to stand in solidarity with Migrant Justice and demand #Not1More deportation and an end to the targeting of immigrants that is based in racism, xenophobia, and hatred because no human is illegal!

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
11/21/2018

STATEMENT FROM THE WHITE CAUCUS FOR COLLECTIVE LIBERATION (AN ARM OF BLACK LIVES MATTER OF GREATER BURLINGTON)

The White Caucus for Collective Liberation condemns the recent and ongoing harassment of Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington People of Color Caucus organizer Jabari Jones by Burlington area white supremacist Christopher Hayden. Mr. Hayden has been using various tactics to threaten Mr. Jones’ safety and livelihood. During his well-documented history of harassment, intimidation, and violent assault, Hayden has targeted Vermont legislators, the Mayor of Burlington, and People of Color on Church Street. Hayden has been arrested for simple assault, charged with disturbing the peace with a hate crime enhancement multiple times, and continues to harrass Mr. Jones at his place of work via threatening phone calls regardless of the “No Trespass” order against him.

For many people of color, Vermont can be a hostile place to live. Under the guise of free speech, area white supremacists harass people of color in our community by leaving threatening flyers which promote white supremacy culture on people’s front doors. We have seen white supremacy culture rear its ugly head again and again in this community and in this state. Vermont State Representative Kiah Morris decided to step down from elected office due to death threats she continued to receive. Former Rutland mayor Chris Louras was voted out of office after formalizing a plan to assist in relocating Syrian refugees to Rutland. White supremacy group Patriot Front holds meetings in Vermont regularly without repudiation. The neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen spread flyers throughout Brattleboro this past summer. Local resident Sheldon Rheaume’s recent display of violence in Essex, VT was racially motivated. Vermont remains overwhelmingly white for a reason.

We, white people, accountable to people of color, are working towards a future where the Greater Burlington Area can be a place where all Black people can thrive bodily, socially, and economically. We are working to transform our community for our collective liberation, accountable to people of color, and with the increased use of political education and healing justice to embody a future where People of Color can thrive in Vermont. There is a clear racist, white supremacist culture present in Vermont. We must work to dismantle this culture and the systems that perpetuate it, through intentional, active organizing, as well as relationship building.

White Vermonters, we are calling on you. Face the reality that our community is unsafe for People of Color. You can no longer ignore the hatred and violence that exists on your streets and in your neighborhoods. Condemn this hatred, racism, and bigotry in our community. Actively resist through sustained and accountable organizing. Join us in dismantling the white supremacist culture and institutionalized racism so potent and present here in Vermont.

Contacts:
Drew Brooks, Coordinator, WCCL: drew@blmgb.org
Brian Clifford, Coordinator, WCCL: brian@blmgb.org
Sean Morrissey, Coordinator, WCCL: sean@blmgb.org
Emma Redden, Facilitator, WCCL: emma@blmgb.org

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
10/22/2018

Family Separation is an 802 Issue

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington is adding their voice to the national rallies in support of ending family separation. While we cannot attend the rally today, we want to add our voices to the call locally and nationally to end cruel, inhumane family separation practices.

Our goal is to address institutional racism and racial disparities at all levels of Vermont society including policing, education, employment, and government representation. We want to ensure that Vermonters of color, like all Vermonters, enjoy their freedom, justice, and peace uninhibited.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network has said that as a pro-Black, pro-Queer, anti-fascist organization in a nation populated by immigrants of all races, creeds, and colors, including Black immigrants from every country, ripping children out of their parent’s arms does nothing to keep us or this country safe.

The current Administration is enacting a racist, nationalistic, ugly policy. We protest the treatment of asylum seekers at the border, the treatment of vulnerable immigrant populations being targeted by ICE, and the treatment of Vermont citizens who are having their children taken away from their homes, all of whom are victims of a cruel and inhumane injustice.
Family separation affects our poor and working poor, our new american families, and asylum seekers at the borders. We see how family separation is a persistent issue that affects Vermonters locally. And how black and brown folks of all nationalities and citizenship statuses are disproportionately affected by systematic family separation practices.
This is happening every day, here, and now.

Some of these practices have become commonplace and palatable in the eyes of our society. This is unacceptable, and it’s not just something that happens “everywhere but here.” In Vermont, this is especially clear in the prevalence of the school to prison pipeline. The school to prison pipeline is the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school and municipal policies. Right here in Burlington, the School Board has shared statistics that while black students only make up 14% of Burlington High School’s population, they make up more than 30% of the students being suspended.

This pipeline is a toxic system that begins with suspension, leads to expulsion, often bringing in the involvement of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, and results in children ultimately being removed from their families. The systemic practice of separating Vermont families can also be witnessed in the number of cases where parents and guardians are afflicted with a mental illness or the disease of addiction. Often, these cases are connected, perpetuating the cycle of broken families, broken homes, and broken communities. We have seen this, we know these families, we hear their pain. We should be working collaboratively to build up our communities, engaging with families and supporting them through their hardships. But instead children are still being removed from their homes. And at what cost? What long-lasting issues might they be faced with as a result of this?

This too needs your attention, this too needs your disgust and your passion.

We call on folks to stand together, in solidarity, to end cruel family separation practices, for all of us. If you want to continue to work to preserve families locally and stand up against racist, xenophobic, and inhumane practices, we call on you to join us!

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/