Burlington protesters block Pearl Street during march

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 1:17 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 9:26 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Hundreds of protesters demonstrating against racial injustice marched through Burlington for the sixth night in a row Monday, blocking the intersection of North Champlain and Pearl streets.

WCAX asked the group why they were blocking the road and whether they were concerned about their own safety, as some cars didn’t stop despite their efforts.

Protester: Ma’am, can you go this way?

Céline McArthur: Is it OK if I go that way instead?

Protester: No, you have to go that way.

Céline McArthur: Can you explain why you’re doing this? What element of the protest is blocking the road?

Protester: I am not speaking to the news--no comment.

Burlington Police say they’ve gotten numerous calls throughout the past week since these overnight protests have been going on. Police say on Monday, they responded to an incident that happened during the same time protesters were marching down Pearl Street. They say protesters were standing in the road and prevented them from responding. Police didn’t expand on what the situation was but they say it’s still being investigated.

WCAX News received a video from viewer Henry Kellogg that also took place when protesters were marching down Pearl Street. It claimed a man was threatening protesters with a rifle. Police said they could not confirm whether that happened, but they say they’ve received calls in the past few days concerning an armed individual that they say was determined to be unfounded. There was a man with a long rifle at Battery Park on Saturday.

Kellogg says he wants the city to do everything it can to protect protesters.

“I hope that attention can be paid and that the state of Vermont can do everything it can to keep the safety of the Black Lives Matter protesters and prevent federal intervention,” he said.

WCAX also got a few complaints from people who live on Pearl Street saying they’re fed up with the noise of the protest.

“It’s dangerous. It’s not just peaceful protesting anymore. They’ve crossed the line,” said Cheryl Culp. “Going after the children— that’s when it was too much. Adults can handle themselves. Teenagers and children, no. They crossed the line.”

While Monday’s protest was going on, Burlington’s Diversity Committee was meeting to discuss keeping protesters safe. Tyeastia Green, the city’s racial equality director, says she supports the protesters and their First Amendment rights to protest. She believes their message needs to be heard. Green says the city is having talks within Mayor Miro Weinberger’s administration and with police about protecting protesters.

“We are trying to not infringe upon rights of the protesters. And also how do we keep everyone safe, including the protesters, not excluding the protesters. How do we keep them safe?” she said “And so that’s a very complicated answer because when you have a group that’s protesting police, it gets a little complicated. That’s not to say that our police will not protect them. I believe that they would, however it does get a little dicey when you are looking at those dynamics.”

Other committee members expressed the same concerns. They’re still working on a plan on keeping protesters safe, but the committee says that is a top priority right now.

Protesters marched from the police station to Pearl Street down Church Street to City Hall. They blocked traffic along the way.

WCAX asked Green her thoughts on protesters impeding traffic. She says the purpose of protesting is to be disruptive to bring awareness to a particular issue. She mentioned that protesters during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s also blocked traffic. Green says as long as emergency vehicles can get through when needed, and as long as the protest isn’t violent against people or property, Freedom of Assembly applies to this group of protesters.

Mayor Miro Weinberger stopped by Battery Park on Monday afternoon to talk to protesters and hear their demands. The group continues to demand that Ofcs. Jason Bellavance, Joseph Corro, and Cory Campbell be fired from the Burlington Police Department and not be rehired at any police department in the state after they were seen on body camera video using force.

Weinberger and other members of his administration have previously said the cases involving those three officers have already been resolved.

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