A call for answers after the protest chaos in Burlington
BURLINGTON, Vt. -
It was a peaceful protest that became violent Sunday in downtown Burlington.
"When I was walking away with my hand up from a peaceful protest Burlington police shot me with rubber munitions that left 19 bruises," said Jonathan Leavitt, a protester.
The confrontation happened outside a conference of New England governors and Canadian premiers in downtown Burlington. For most of the day, 400 protestors demonstrated against the possible repurposing of an oil pipeline to carry more corrosive tar sands oil from Canada to Maine. It's a plan that's unlikely to happen. But around dinner time, a couple dozen protesters blocked buses trying to leave the Hilton Hotel.
Reporter Matt Henson: Why did the protestors decide to block the buses?
"I don't know," answered Jared Carter of the Vermont Community Law Center.
After the protestors disobeyed orders to leave, officers fired nonlethal weapons and pepper spray after they say some of the protesters became aggressive. But the protesters say they were retreating and the use of force was unnecessary. Three claim they were hit by the pepper balls. The Vermont Community Law Center wants answers about police policies, the weapons used and training. Advocates Wednesday called for a review of what happened.
"I'm not going to presume to know exactly what happened, who started what, who said what. The fact remains there are Burlingtonians, Vermont citizens that are injured today and the chilling effect it has on future activism and protest in Vermont is important to recognize," Carter said.
"Clearly this is an incident that should be reviewed," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.
Weinberger says he supports the actions used by police on Sunday. But he agrees with the police chief that an After Action Review is necessary in this case. Such a review is standard protocol after significant incidents. The review is expected to take several weeks. Police will look at numerous videos and hold at least one question and answer session with the public.
"And it is possible, the police chief said the same thing to me, there may be some information that surfaces that in future comparable incidents, there is something we may want to do differently," Weinberger said.
Police have not ruled out arresting some of the protestors.
As of right now, the Vermont Community Law Center says they have no plans to file a lawsuit.