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Burlington protesters to take demands to mayor’s doorstep

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Protests continued in Burlington Friday for the 10th consecutive day over issues of racial injustice and excessive force by police. But Demonstrators have changed their tactics and say they’re now taking their demands directly to the mayor’s doorstep.

Group leaders say they plan to march two blocks from the University of Vermont Green to Mayor Miro Weinberger’s home to stage a die-in — lying down outside.

The demands remain the same — fire three Burlington police officers accused of excessive force. The difference now is that the group has the support of six Progressive city council members who want to help make that happen.

“I personally don’t want these officers policing our community ever again. I believe a lot of my colleagues believe that as well and think that way. So, we’re just trying to figure out what’s going to be the most impactful and yet time-sensitive measure we can take at this time,” said Councilor Jane Stromberg, P-Ward 8.

The councilors say they’re still exploring all legal options to meet the protesters’ demands. The mayor and city attorney have maintained that there is no legal option for removing the officers.

Ultimately, the Progressive councilors say they’re pushing for preventative change so that in the future, officers are properly punished for gross misconduct. They are calling for an emergency meeting between city officials and protest leaders to propose a charter change that would give a publicly accountable body the authority to make final disciplinary decisions in use-of-force cases, rather than the police chief.

Governor Scott on Friday said he hopes the protests in Burlington remain peaceful. He was asked if the state is prepared to intervene in Burlington, possibly calling on the Vermont State Police or the Vermont National Guard, if the demonstrations turn violent. Scott says he believes city police and Mayor Weinberger have the situation “well in hand.”

“I want to stress these are peaceful protests. There hasn’t been the violence that we’ve seen in other states and other communities and we hope that continues,” Scott said. He added that the state is willing to help the city if asked to do so.

In the face of widespread demands to change police culture in our country, the governor Friday also issued an executive order he says will accelerate police reforms.

It includes several short term actions such as improved hiring and promotion practices, outfitting all officers with body cameras, developing a statewide use-of-force-policy, implementing updated training methods, and creating a statewide model for investigating misconduct allegations.

The governor says his order takes concrete steps toward reform and modernization of Vermont police departments ahead of bipartisan efforts to change state laws.

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