Community Action Leads to Arrest of Klansman - Rights and Democracy VT

Community Action Leads to Arrest of Klansman

BURLINGTON, VT - On November 12th, the man who put KKK posters on the home doors of two women of color was apprehended by police while hiding in Morrisville, VT. This ended a week of uncertainty following the hate crime. The hate crime that was first ignored by Burlington police dispatchers, became a high priority case after a public outpouring against hate and for racial justice.  

On October 29th, a woman of color who is a local activist discovered a Ku Klux Klan poster on her front door. A police dispatcher initially told her family that there was nothing to be done because the poster was protected free speech. After she reached out to Rights & Democracy about this targeted act of hate, an emergency meeting was held with faith and community leaders to take action. This group launched a petition and began organizing to ensure the incident did not go unaddressed. Burlington resident Jocelyn Harvey recognized the photograph of the KKK poster online to be identical to a poster she received in her home mailbox and reached out to Rights & Democracy. Jocelyn spoke at the press conference held on October 31st calling for action, which was attended by over 100 people. A follow up speakout was held in Burlington on Thursday, November 5th, with over 200 people attending, and more than 50 at a solidarity rally in Brattleboro. Over 750 people signed the open community letter against hate.  

Local residents were pleased that the perpetrator was identified, but acknowledged that we have a long way to go to end racial bias in Vermont.

“I’m really happy we were able to secure this win against racism in Vermont, thanks to the community for coming together with the help of a coalition of organizations led by Rights & Democracy. If we hadn’t taken action this would have been yet another racially-motivated incident in Vermont left unchecked,” said Ebony Nyoni, a local community leader.

Jocellyn Harvey attended yesterday's press conference held by the Burlington Police Department announcing their intent to press charges.

“It's good to know the man who targeted me and another woman of color has been found. I'm grateful for all the support I've gotten from the community, the BPD, and anyone outside of BTV who has seen or heard this story” she said.

Leaders emphasized that further action is needed to ensure safe communities with accountable authorities, as the initial response from the dispatcher was dismissal.

“There are a lot of powerful lessons from this experience. Number one is that to create change it takes courage, and the two women who received these threats were so incredibly brave we must stand by them and be so thankful that they stood up against hate. We also learned that with collective action from the community, in this case including a petition, press conference, and multiple rallies, we can see love triumph over hate.  But we still have a lot of work to do. This incident and others have made clear that anti-racism and cultural competency education is needed to ensure that all of our residents’ concerns are immediately addressed by authorities, especially those instigated by race, class, gender, and ability. Moving forward, "Rights & Democracy will work with our partners to push for the implementation of public policy for healthy, safe, inclusive communities,” said James Haslam, Executive Director.

Many thanks to the hundreds of people who made their voices heard and took action against hate and for racial justice. Events were organized by community members and organizations  including Rights & Democracy, Justice For All, Peace & Justice Center, Vermonters For Criminal Justice Reform, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Vermont Racism: Real Talk, Vermont Interfaith Action, The Root Social Justice Center, and more.

Stay tuned for next steps and please email if you want to learn how you can help Rights & Democracy do as much as we can with our partners to push for policy solutions to institutional racism.

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