Last night a scary thing happened in our community. A man was shot and killed during a Drug Enforcement Administration raid on Elmwood Avenue that was assisted by the Burlington Police Department. To recognize the the loss of life and provide a space for healing, I am working with the One Life Initiative to organize a candlelight vigil. When violence occurs in our community, it is important that we come together to begin the healing process and provide support for people living in the neighborhood.
As of today, very little information about this incident has been released to the public from the DEA and the BPD. Concerned community members what to know what happened. Why did bullets end up in neighboring apartments? How did it result in a death? Is there body cam footage of what happened, and will it be released? We need transparency as soon as possible.
When an emergency like this occurs in our community, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision on the specific incident, but it’s crucial we consider the root causes. The circumstances suggest the individual who died last night was involved in drug trading. I grew up in Rutland and later moved to San Francisco, where I worked as a teacher. I saw many of my students deal drugs because they couldn't get a job with their criminal record or because they needed to make their rent payment. People often get involved in dealing drugs when they have no legitimate means of employment or they need to numb the negative material conditions of their life. If we had a vibrant, equitable economy that met everyone’s needs, maybe this death could have been avoided.
Note: The vigil is being organized by The One Love Initiative, a broad collaboration of community organizations and concerned individuals fighting for racial justice and community safety. Members of Rights & Democracy, the Vermont Workers’ Center, Peace and Justice Center, and a number of other organizations will join.