Protesters gathered to
show their support in a case that they say is a result of racial profiling by
the Burlington Police Department.
"I got people on my
that's all it means,"
Susalyn Kirkland said.
Kirkland is charged with
resisting arrest and impeding an officer after she found herself in the middle
of a physical altercation involving her three sons and Police Sgt. Brad
Trombley earlier this month. It all began with a phone call from an Old North
End neighbor who said the boys shot at her with a BB gun. Court papers say the
boys jumped the officer and they face multiple charges.
But protesters say that's
the police side of the story.
"A teenage boy was straddled
by a much larger white cop who punched the boy, restrained the boy, pepper
sprayed the boy, pepper sprayed the mother, who was just trying to find out
what was happening to her kids," said Helen Scott, an organizer for the Vermont
"I didn't do
nothing," Kirkland said. "I ain't jump on no cop, I ain't resist no arrest, I didn't do none of that, none of that
and why they lying? I don't know why they lying."
Ms. Kirkland now faces
eviction from her home on Spring Street as the city reduces the number of Section 8
vouchers due to financial cutbacks. Scott says they are using this case as an unfair process
"It looks like they
are trying to find ways of getting people off
of section 8 and this seems like
an excuse to remove somebody," Scott said.
Protesters want all
criminal charges against Kirkland dropped. But Chittenden County Prosecutor
T.J. Donovan feels otherwise.
"The facts of the
case that occurred, whether or not there was criminal wrongdoing,
that will be litigated in this
courthouse and that's the appropriate place," Donovan said.
Burlington Police say they
have also reviewed the case and will address any concerns of racial profiling.
"I think one of the
most important things here is to emphasize that we take the issue of bias in
law enforcement and bias in the criminal justice system very seriously. It has
been among our top priorities for the past decade, even going back before
that," Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling said.
But police have not yet
received any formal complaints from protestors about the allegations.
"No one's contacted
us with any information," Schirling said. "We're not aware of any
facts or specific evidence that anything here was handled with anything other
than professionalism in the face of an overwhelmingly challenging set of
Police could not comment
any further because it is an ongoing investigation, but the incident was also
cause for probation violation for Susalyn Kirkland's 21-year-old son, Heiheem
Kirkland, stemming from a 2008 case of assault and robbery with a weapon. He
appeared in court Wednesday. His brother, Hasaan Williams, and the youngest
brother are also in state custody. Susalyn Kirkland will return to court Aug.
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