VPR | November 2, 2015 | Column by Alex Keefe and Annie Russell
Last week, two Burlington residents found what appears to be a recruitment poster for the Ku Klux Klan at their homes.
On Saturday, a group called Rights and Democracy held a press conference where Burlington officials, the Burlington police and a woman who received the flyer spoke to the public about the incidents.
Police say that the relative of one of the recipients called police, but that that call ended without a further investigation.
VPR reporter Annie Russell shared the details from this weekend’s press conference and the investigation thus far.
Who received these flyers:
As of now we know two people have received these flyers at their homes. One was a Black Lives Matter activist who has chosen to remain anonymous.
The other was a woman named Jocellyn Harvey. She's a young black woman from Burlington. She actually told me that she was very surprised to receive this kind of flyer because is not an activist, she's not quoted in the media very often.
She said at first she though it was a horrible prank. But after she logged onto Facebook and saw that another individual had received a similar flyer, she said at that point she was afraid that these flyers could be targeted to more people of color in the Burlington area.
She also said that, of course she hopes police catch the person or persons involved, but she felt it was important to speak out to let whoever is doing this know that there will be a public response.
What did Burlington Police have to say?
I spoke with Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo about why police didn't immediately follow up on that call from a relative. He did say that was a mistake and that any incident that is motivated by bias will get a full investigation.
“It should not have ended at that phone call to my dispatch. It should have gone to the next step,” del Pozo said. “We found out about that the next morning and sprung into action. But I will be investigating internally why it ended at that level, and make sure that they understand in my police department that that's not tolerable."
There was a tense moment between del Pozo and Black Lives Matter activist Vicki Garrison during the press conference. What happened there?
Garrison criticized the police response. She claimed that, had there not been a press conference organized by Rights and Democracy, she didn't think there would have been a response. Del Pozo vehemently disagrees with that, and spoke to her during her speech.
Garrison: I will not accept the excuse that the Chief of Police gave. It took courage to pick up that phone and to trust white people to protect you. And that didn't happen. But for us being here right now and James bringing us together, we would not have had a response from police.”
Del Pozo: That's just not true ma'am. That's just not true.
Garrison: Do you want to take my moment? I didn't speak while you spoke. So you want to use your privilege and come in here?
Del Pozo: I apologize.
Was a crime committed here?
Again, that's what police are trying to figure out right now. Police say that it very well may rise to the level of a crime. But they need to determine if any of Vermont's criminal laws were violated.
And they gave some examples like harassment, menacing and disorderly conduct that could be potential charges of an investigation like this.
But at the very least del Pozo says the department hopes to expose this type of bias to the community.