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Investigation into letter calling for arrest of Vermont lawmakers

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Capitol Police are investigating after an anonymous letter called for the arrest of several Vermont lawmakers including the Democratic speaker of the House. But as our Calvin Cutler reports, lawmakers say it’s just another sign of eroding political discourse and growing partisan division.

The letter sent late last week alleges House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and other lawmakers engaged in un-American activities.

Elected leaders receive hate mail from time to time but that’s their constituents' First Amendment right.

Capitol Police say this letter is concerning because it struck a similar tone to the alleged plan to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week.

“Protest activity is increasing, the letter-writing, the communications and all of those things. It’s a busier time and I think it’s going to continue that way for the next few years,” Capitol Police Chief Matthew Romei said.

Police are still investigating who the letter came from but they don’t believe any lawmakers are at risk and that this most likely won’t result in charges.

But Johnson says the incident is a piece of a bigger problem.

“Vermonters just need to be aware that the ugliness of national discourse is here, too,” Rep. Johnson said.

Johnson says this incident is just a sliver of divisive national politics seeping into Vermont. From former state representative Kiah Morris receiving online threats to protesters rallying outside the home of a Burlington city councilor.

“We are living in a country where political discourse seems to be on the wane,” Middlebury College Political Science Professor Bert Johnson said.

Professor Johnson says social media has given a platform to fringe groups and has widened the ideological divide. He also says politically underrepresented Vermonters face hurdles when getting into politics.

“Women and members of underrepresented groups are frequently subject to public harassment when they enter the public arena,” he said.

Rep. Johnson says incidents like these have a real effect on Vermonters, their families and their communities.

“You can be a target and it happens here. And unless you’re the subject of that it can be very hard to see,” Rep. Johnson said.

She says it’s critical to acknowledge and listen to others' experiences when they share them.

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