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Vermont Officials Prepare For Possible Protests

Vermont Statehouse
WAMC/Pat Bradley
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest capital city in the country but it is not immune to the passions and controversies swirling over the departure of President Donald Trump and the inauguration of President-elect Joseph Biden. The police department is working with federal and state agencies to secure the city and Statehouse in the wake of FBI warnings of potential violent protests at state capitols across the country.
The FBI warning expects the protests to occur on the 17th and on Inauguration Day January 20th.  
The Montpelier Police Department is coordinating with the Vermont State Police, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and State’s Attorney office, the Vermont Intelligence Center, Vermont Capitol Police and other federal and state agencies to make sure the building, grounds and people are secure.

Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete is asking Vermonters to be vigilant in the coming days and report any suspicious activity.  He says there is a high level of concern based on what happened in Washington January 6th.  “The state of Vermont does not have any direct information that suggests that there are threats to the Statehouse. But keeping in mind at the same time we would not be responsible if we did not have our diligence in planning for it in seeing what the national trends are and seeing what we just we just saw a the U.S. Capital. So we’re going to make sure that our response is going to be measured and our response is going to be appropriate as to any potential threats or any specific threats that we may learn about between now and not only just January 17th or the 20th but going forward as a whole.”

On Tuesday Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling echoed that so far there is no indication that violent protest is planned in Vermont.  “We’re in close coordination with federal, state and local authorities to plan for any eventuality. There are those who clearly demonstrated last week their intent on insurrection. While we don’t script where and when folks should exercise their First Amendment rights we would ask that people think twice about whether these two days that have been identified, the 17th and the 20th, are the right time.”

Republican Governor Phil Scott says Vermonters have a right to rally but should be wary about the organizers’ goals.  “You know it’s not clear to me exactly what the message is. I think it started out as a Second Amendment rally. But then there are these extremist groups that have started infiltrating and are using it for other reasons. And my fear is that they’re using law-abiding citizens of Vermont and other states who believe in the Second Amendment, which I do as well, and are using them as pawns in this scheme to cause disruption and to tear apart our democracy and to overthrow the government. That’s my biggest fear is that Vermonters are being duped into participating in this rally for the wrong reasons.”

Chief Peete says there will be an enhanced police presence in Montpelier over the coming days.   “We always try to be out there within the community. But obviously because of heightened concerns we will be hopefully more visible especially in the days or on the days of our anticipated events which are January 17th and the 20th. But we’re hoping that that’s not going to alarm the public.  The Montpelier Police Department is going to do everything that it can. And we will maintain the safety and security of our city, of our community members and of our businesses. And I have no doubt that with our partnership with the Capitol Police and with law enforcement, the State Police across the state we’re going to come through this, all of us.”

As states and federal agencies prepare for potential discord, outgoing President Donald Trump issued a video on Facebook calling on his supporters to stay calm.  “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement.”  

National Guard troops from across the country have been sent to Washington to secure the capital for the inauguration.