Governor warns potential protesters not to get duped

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:57 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - State leaders are urging Vermonters to be aware this weekend if attending a rally on the Statehouse lawn. The FBI and Vermont police are tracking potentially armed protesters at statehouses this weekend after a mob of President Trump supporters trashed the U.S. Capitol. Our Calvin Cutler has more on the governor’s message.

Police across the country, including in Montpelier, are heightening security after a report from the FBI warning of armed protests in every state capital. State leaders are calling on Vermonters who may choose to attend not to get hoodwinked.

Days after extremist supporters of the president caused bedlam in the heart of the nation’s capital resulting in five deaths, state leaders are cautioning us to look out for potentially armed protests this weekend.

Police say there are no specific threats to Vermont.

But Gov. Phil Scott says he’s concerned about the potential gathering at the Statehouse this weekend and he fears Vermonters are being tricked into participating in the rally for the wrong reasons.

“Don’t be played. Don’t be used as a pawn by some of these extreme groups that are planning these protests across the nation that are planning to undermine our democracy and overthrow the government,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

State leaders say it appears as though some far-right extremist groups could try to use an already planned Second Amendment rally to amplify their message. Scott wants Vermonters to be aware of why they’re there if they choose to go.

“They used them in Washington and they’ll use them in the next few days,” the governor said.

But the Gun Owners of Vermont, a Second Amendment advocacy group, tells me they and other affiliated groups are not planning any events on the Statehouse lawn and that they learned about the protest through the news.

Police say they’re working with local and federal authorities for potential responses to protests on Sunday and on Inauguration Day, though they won’t disclose their specific plans.

But in a time when protests on the left and right continue to heat up, leaders say it’s a fine line to walk between respecting Vermonters’ First Amendment rights and maintaining security.

“While we don’t script where people should exercise their First Amendment right, we would ask whether these two days, the 17th and the 20th, are the right time to do that,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling said.

People we spoke with are hoping for peace and quiet this weekend.

“I don’t think Vermonters act that way but, then again, I don’t know them all,” said Gisele Chouinard of Williamstown. “I’m hoping that it will be nice and peaceful.”

Others we spoke with cherish the Capitol complex, saying it belongs to all Vermonters.

“I would be really upset if something were to happen natively here in Montpelier and I think much of the population would feel the same,” said Jeff Stetter of Montpelier.

WCAX News has confirmed that as of now, the Vermont National Guard has not been called in to assist law enforcement. But they will assist if the governor requests their help.

Related Story:

FBI warns of armed protests at statehouses, including Vermont

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