Vt. authorities call for civility ahead of Inauguration Day

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:20 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont authorities are preparing for possible demonstrations at the Statehouse this weekend ahead of Inauguration Day.

“Keep it peaceful and keep it lawful” is the message from Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson to any Vermonters who plan to protest in her city this weekend. “We get protests at the Statehouse all the time, and some of those things are things I agree with and some of those things are things I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t matter. We want to protect the free speech of anyone who is here.”

But Watson says the second people here cross the line, there will be a cost. Though it’s legal to carry a firearm, Watson urges all to leave their weapons at home.”There are other ways to stand up for what you believe in,” she said.

Vermont authorities say they are not aware of any specific, credible threats directed toward the Statehouse or elsewhere in the state, but remain on alert after the FBI reported calls for nationwide action including an “armed march” at all 50 state capitals.

The Vermont State Police, Montpelier Police, Capitol Police, and Washington County Sheriff’s Department are collaborating with local, state, and federal authorities to prepare for any potential problems, but they declined to outline any specific plans. “Our Level of preparation needs to occur in response to the level of violence and the level of threat we’ve seen is possible,” said Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman.

Vermont State Police at the Statehouse in Montpelier.
Vermont State Police at the Statehouse in Montpelier.(WCAX)

But the Vermont State Employees Association stresses that if that changes, state workers’ safety could be at stake. “If it does become violent, you could be hurting people who are just here doing their job,” said the VSEA’s Steve Howard. “It could be the buildings and grounds BGS personnel, custodial personnel that’ll be in the building, or our state police, lieutenants, or other law enforcement folks.”

Howard says it’s better to be safe than sorry. “When we look and see what happened in Washington and how horrible it was. No one really thought there was a credible threat there, and so things can turn on a dime,” he said.

While there is no information about pro-Trump actions, we know there are more than 60 people on Facebook that have said they will attend a counter-Trump protest on the Statehouse lawn Sunday.

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday warned would-be protesters not to be duped by false messaging from extremist groups. “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,” Scott said.

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