The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody has led to sustained protests across the nation, including in Burlington, Vermont. Residents have been among those protesting police violence and brutality. On Monday, city councilors spent an hour debating a resolution condemning the killing.
The resolution considered by Burlington city councilors asks the mayor, governor and the state’s Congressional delegation to join in “condemning the killing of George Floyd….” and condemns acts of racism and discrimination that lead to the deaths of Black Americans. It requests that the Black Lives Matter flag be raised at City Hall for the remainder of the COVID-19 state of emergency. Ward 7 Independent Ali Dieng sponsored the measure. “This was a call for Burlington and for people in Vermont to take action because of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And as we all know black people in this community have been brutalized, dehumanized for centuries. So this resolution is was a cry for so many people. We are seeking for the council to join the Congressional delegation, the mayor, the governor in condemning the act of hatred.”
Ward 8 Progressive Jane Stromberg took issue with a clause offering appreciation to the Burlington Police Department for their non-confrontational response to protests over the weekend. She offered an amendment to remove that segment. “Lines 34 through 39 state our appreciation for our police essentially being non-confrontational and professional. I don’t think we should essentially be thanking them for doing something that to me is extremely expected. I feel like it waters down the ultimate sentiment of this resolution. I think that you know the Burlington Police Department is currently employing officers that have extremely questionable character in terms of racial bias and somehow we’re still making it about the systems of oppression.”
The same clause was unpalatable to Perri Freeman, the Central District Progressive who last year made controversial comments that the council should disarm and reduce the size of the police department. "I'm so horrified by this language being included in here I don’t even know where to start. I am completely livid that this language would even be considered. You are asking us to point out in a resolution that is about someone getting lynched, you are asking us to point out that you were professional and non-confrontational. You are the police department. You are the, an apparatus of the state.”
Councilor Dieng said removing the clause would diminish important work on equitable policing practices. “If you want to strike it you will be then be voting for Burlington to not commit police department to not commit for a fair and impartial policy. For them also to not continue to develop and implement comprehensive program to enter equitable justice policing polices at all levels of the agency.”
Two amendments to remove the clause failed. The resolution passed on a 10 to 2 vote. As requested in the resolution, the Black Lives Matter flag now flies daily at Burlington City Hall.