Scott dismayed by use of force for Trump photo-op

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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As thousands of Americans continue to show solidarity with George Floyd and call attention to systematic police brutality and lack of accountability, Governor Phil Scott Wednesday called on political leaders to hold themselves accountable for what they say and how they say it.

"Americans are desperately needing us to unite them. We don't need more polarization we don't need more division," Scott said.

On Monday, Military police in Washington, at the direction of administration officials, used pepper balls and smoke canisters to disburse a crowd of peaceful protesters to clear a path for President Trump as he walked to nearby Saint John's Church for a photo-op with a bible.

Administration officials called it's a symbol of resiliency, but Scott, a fellow Republican, says he watched in disbelief. He says that all Americans should listen to and reflect on the demonstrations. "I would suggest the president should read what President Obama wrote and what President Bush wrote and follow that lead," Scott said.

On Monday, Scott announced a racial equity task force that will examine the systemic economic challenges facing Vermonters of color in seeking housing and obtaining health care. Scott acknowledges some may doubt the effectiveness of yet another government task force, but says Vermont isn't immune to what's happening across the country. "We may not think what we're saying sounds racist, and we don't consider ourselves racist, but some of what we say and some of what is heard means different things to different people," he said.

Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says structural racism also effects who can live a healthy lifestyle and that COVID-19 has made the gap bigger. The state has been collecting data on ethnic and social minorities to evaluate health outcomes.

"We need to go down to the level of what's going on in our societies," Levine said. But how we do that concerns him. And as thousands of Vermonters are taking to the streets protesting inequities in society, Levine warns of potential COVID-19 infections that can spread though the protests. "Make sure that we don't compound a set of problems people are protesting about with yet a greater problem with new rates of disease, perhaps hospitalizations, perhaps severe outcomes that the protests may have generated."

Levine says there are a number of public health initiatives that can help people from all walks of society, such as universal after school programs and curbing the sale of tobacco products.

The Scott administration hopes to keep pushing those issues even after the COVID-19 crisis.

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