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Burlington protests and campout continue

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 7:27 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s Battery Park is located next to the police station and just a short walk from downtown Burlington.

For the last week, the park has been home to a group of activists camping out. The camp has been set up with food and even a medical tent.

As a few dozen people have camped out, a few hundred join each night to march the streets in protests.

The protesters camping out refused our requests for on-camera interviews ignoring questions when asked why they were out camping.

The demonstrators are calling for police reforms and specifically the firing of three Burlington Police officers who were involved in separate incidents in which the use of force was questioned.

“We are here until three police officers get fired,” said one protester.

The city says investigations of the three officers are closed and the city cannot legally take any further action.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: What is it going to take for you guys to get what you want here?

Protester: I’m sorry, there is a sign right over there that says our demands and as soon as our demands are met we are leaving. However, our demands are not met so you can go over there, read our demands and see what’s up, basically.

Demands for racial justice and police reforms have been happening all over the country since the police killing of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake, who is now paralyzed. In Burlington, protests have remained peaceful, but include acts of civil disobedience, like camping illegally and blocking streets.

Vermont Law School professor Jared Carter says the demonstrations are protected by First Amendment free speech, up to a point.

“So to answer your question, can somebody camp indefinitely in Battery Park? The answer is probably not,” Carter said.

He says it becomes a gray area when protesters hit the streets.

“Once you start blocking traffic then that First Amendment right protection goes away. Would it be wise for law enforcement to start a quote-unquote ’crackdown,’ I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem, that’s just going to bring more problems,” said Carter.

Back at the park, neighbors say they are OK with peaceful protests and the camping, but not the late-night noise.

“We have nothing against it. Just the chanting, constantly after 4:30 p.m. and it goes on until 11 p.m.,” said Burlington resident Gordan Gokey.

DEL POZO WEIGHS IN ON ANTI-POLICE ACTIVISTS

Former Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo on Monday night weighed in on Twitter about the ongoing protests in Burlington and the role of the police.

He responded to a tweet by reporter Céline McArthur with a string of tweets saying: “People who organize & deploy to block & redirect traffic against drivers’ wills are acting as... police. Resolving contested use of public spaces requires... policing. It’s interesting to see how anti-police activists don’t hesitate to act like they’re cops at the first chance,” del Pozo said.

Del Pozo continued, “The video above is anti-police activists realizing they need policing, and deciding to commission themselves as police officers, so they can privilege the use of a shared public space for a cause they support and think is more important than other uses of the commons,” del Pozo said. “It’s indeed a very important cause. But... this shows many intend to leave us with a policed society if they achieve their goals. They’ll just want it policed their way, in service to their causes and beliefs. That’s fine, until it isn’t. We are *pluralist* *liberal* democracy.”

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