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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Plenty of Police, but No Protesters, Turn Out at Vermont Statehouse on Sunday

Posted By on Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 3:47 PM

Officers outside the Statehouse Sunday - TERRY J. ALLEN
  • Terry J. Allen
  • Officers outside the Statehouse Sunday
Despite concerns about armed unrest Sunday at statehouses around the nation, the only things descending on Montpelier were anti-fascists and snowflakes — the latter the frozen kind.

Noon came and went at the snowy Vermont Statehouse with no armed protestors in sight, leaving little for the assembled journalists to document beyond heavily-armed state troopers on foot patrol and a guy with a handwritten badge that read "Anti-Fascist Riot Prevention Volunteer," whose head was encased in  a gas mask that looked like it might have seen duty in a world war.  

“I’m wearing it just in case,” said Montpelier resident Thomas Gram, who added that the device served the dual purpose of protection against COVID-19 and any tear gas he might encounter.

Gram and Belynda Jestice of Plainfield had wandered down to the Statehouse from a group of counter-protesters in front of Montpelier City Hall. Jestice said she was relieved that there was no armed protest to counter.

“We wanted to send the message that they can’t come here and do what happened in D.C.,” Jestice said.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Political Parties, Public Officials Urge Caution Ahead of Possible Statehouse Protests

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:56 PM

The Vermont Statehouse - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • The Vermont Statehouse
Updated at 4:04 p.m.

Public officials, police, and Vermont's Republican and Democratic parties are urging caution ahead of what law enforcement authorities have called possible plans for armed protests at the Vermont Statehouse.

The potential threat prompted the Montpelier City Council on Wednesday to pass a resolution recommending the closure of schools, the Statehouse and city hall on January 20, the date president-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. And on Friday, the Vermont Judiciary announced it would cancel all in-person hearings and meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The Judiciary is taking these precautionary steps to ensure continuity of operations and safety in light of reports that public gatherings during the federal inaugural week carry a risk of vandalism or violence in some parts of the country,” Patricia Gabel, the state court administrator, said in a statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned local law enforcement in all 50 states about potential threats by armed pro-Trump extremists who falsely claim that President Donald Trump won reelection in November.

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, an insurrection that led to the killing of a police officer and four other deaths.

Law enforcement officials have flagged Sunday, January 17, and Wednesday, January 20, as two dates of potential armed protest.

The Montpelier resolution calls for “residents and visitors to make the safe choice and refrain from direct in-person counter-protest activity due to the risk of violence.

“There are other ways, safer ways to make your voice heard and to stand up for what you believe in,” the resolution reads. “We’re asking you to consider safety first during these events. In addition, there is neither need nor necessity to be armed at a peaceful protest, and anyone coming to any of these events, please do so without firearms.”

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Vaccinations of Vermonters 75 and Older to Begin Later This Month

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:29 PM

Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing resident Elsie Johnson gets vaccinated. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTER MEDICAL CENTER
  • Photo Courtesy of Porter Medical Center
  • Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing resident Elsie Johnson gets vaccinated.
Updated at 3:56 p.m.

Vermont will begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people ages 75 and older starting the week of January 25, officials said at a press conference Friday, unveiling the next phase of the state's highly anticipated vaccination plan.

But officials stressed that the vaccine rollout remains hampered by limited supply, noting Vermont continues to receive only about 8,800 vaccine doses from the federal government each week — far less than initial projections.

“We know many are anxiously waiting for their vaccines — and rightfully so," Gov. Phil Scott said. "We want to get every dose out just as quickly as we possibly can. But with so few doses available, we need everyone to be patient.”

The Trump administration raised hopes for expanded access earlier this week in announcing that it would release all doses of available vaccine rather than hold a second dose for those in early phases (both authorized vaccines are two-dose regimens). But the Washington Post reported on Friday that the administration had already begun shipping out reserves last month, dashing hopes of a windfall.

Vermont officials say they are now planning to proceed with the current supply chain, which should allow them to vaccinate the 49,000 or so Vermonters aged 75 or older in about six weeks.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Nearly 100 People Apply to Be on Vermont's Cannabis Control Board

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 5:44 PM

  • Luke Eastman
Nearly 100 people have applied to be one of three representatives on Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board, a powerful entity that will implement rules and regulations and oversee licensing for the state’s nascent adult-use marijuana marketplace.

Applicant names are considered confidential under Act 164, the law passed last year that legalized recreational cannabis sales in Vermont starting in 2022. But Gov. Phil Scott’s office, which is overseeing the application process, released some demographic information about the 94 people who applied during a two-week period in December:

  • 57 identify as men and 30 as women; seven did not disclose.
  • 72 identify as white; two as Black/Hispanic; two as Native American; one as Hispanic; three as Black, Indigenous, other people of color/mixed race; and 14 did not disclose.
  • 77 applicants are from Vermont, while 17 live out of state.
“Candidates will be expected to develop a new complex regulatory system within a very tight timeframe established in the Act,” the governor’s office said in a press release when it opened the application process. “Preferred candidates will have experience in administering complex regulatory systems and the ability to manage a start-up enterprise with responsibility for licensing, compliance and enforcement.”

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Del Pozo Resigns From Howard Center Board

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 4:02 PM

Former chief Brandon del Pozo - FILE: LUKE AWTRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Luke Awtry ©️ Seven Days
  • Former chief Brandon del Pozo
Updated on January 15, 2021.

Former Burlington police chief Brandon del Pozo resigned from the Howard Center board of trustees last month as the mental health agency wrapped up an investigation into his social media use.

In an email to Seven Days on Thursday, del Pozo said his decision to step down was unrelated to the investigation. Rather, he said, he and his family had moved out of state.

"As my work commitments gradually went nationwide I no longer had the community connections and local focus that service to the Howard Center requires," he wrote.

Del Pozo had served as a trustee for the Howard Center, the state's largest mental health and substance use service provider, since 2018. His three-year term was due to expire this year.

Following a string of employee complaints, the Howard Center board hired local law firm Paul Frank + Collins in August to "better understand the full scope of events" surrounding del Pozo's decision in July 2019 to create a secret Twitter account to troll former Howard Center worker Charles Winkleman.

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Vermont National Guard Will Help Secure D.C. for Biden's Inauguration

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 10:58 AM

Police guarding the U.S. Capitol on January 6 - JULIAN LESHAY, DREAMSTIME
  • Julian Leshay, Dreamstime
  • Police guarding the U.S. Capitol on January 6
About 100 members of the Vermont Army National Guard will join 20,000 troops in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to president-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.

The timeline is fluid, but Vermont soldiers are expected to arrive in D.C. by Tuesday, a Guard spokesperson said Thursday morning. Most of those headed south are from the 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain).

The soldiers are among tens of thousands deploying to D.C. in the aftermath of the January 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists, who falsely believe outgoing President Donald Trump won reelection in November. A bipartisan coalition of members from the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), impeached Trump for the second time on Wednesday for his inflammatory speech ahead of last week’s insurrection.
The National Guard members headed to the nation's capital will be “deployed to provide security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support to district and federal agencies,” the Vermont Guard said in a press release. “The public’s safety is the top priority of the National Guard, members will meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, posturing with protective equipment, weapons and live-ammunition.”

Gov. Phil Scott, a frequent critic of Trump who has called for the president’s removal from office for inciting the insurrection, approved the mission, which takes some soldiers out of state at a time when they are also supporting COVID-19 relief efforts in Vermont.
“After the tragic events at our Capitol on January 6, we must do all we can to secure a peaceful transition of power on Inauguration Day,” Scott said in a statement. “I am grateful to the brave men and women of the Vermont National Guard for their service and doing their part during this deployment to protect our republic and the democratic values we hold dear.”

Thousands of National Guard members are already in Washington. Photos on Wednesday showed soldiers sprawled out in the Capitol rotunda, guarding the beacon of American democracy for the first time since soldiers defended the building during the Civil War.

“We swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, said in a statement. “We are honored to play our part in securing one of the most time honored traditions in American history: the Presidential Inauguration.”

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Welch Calls On Colleagues to Impeach Trump — Again

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 12:00 PM

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch speaks in favor of impeachment Wednesday morning. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Vermont Rep. Peter Welch speaks in favor of impeachment Wednesday morning.
Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Peter Welch, exhorted his colleagues to impeach Donald Trump for a second time Wednesday for his role in inciting a mob of loyalists to storm the U.S. Capitol last week.

Standing on the floor of the chamber he was forced to flee one week ago, Welch made a clear and direct case that the president must be held accountable for his role in the violence that left five people, including a Capitol police officer, dead.

“The question before this Congress: Will Congress condone through acquiescence, or condemn through impeachment, Donald Trump’s violent acts to overturn the election?” Welch said. “Congress must impeach.”

The House initiated an impeachment vote Wednesday morning after Vice President Mike Pence declined Tuesday to use his power to remove the president as unfit for office under the 25th Amendment.

The single article of impeachment, which accuses Trump of “inciting an insurrection,” was expected to pass Wednesday afternoon with support of all Democrats and even some Republicans.

Its passage would make Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. When and whether the Senate would conduct a trial remains unclear.

During his one-minute remarks, Welch, wearing a blue mask, said Trump had challenged the principle that “all power flows from the people,” using lies and violence.

“The deceit — his repeated and baseless assertion of electoral fraud. The violence — the attack on the United States capitol on January 6,” Welch said.

The rioters’ goal was to “obstruct the peaceful transfer of power,” an effort clearly and deliberately orchestrated by the president, Welch asserted.

“The mob was assembled by Donald Trump, incited by Donald Trump and in service of Donald Trump’s effort to overturn, through violence, what he lost at the voting booth,” Welch said.

Watch his remarks here:

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Vermont State Trooper Quits Amid Probe of His Posts About D.C. Insurgency

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 11:05 AM

  • Courtesy of Vermont State Police
  • Sgt. Lucas Hall
A Vermont State Police sergeant resigned Tuesday night amid an investigation into Facebook posts he'd made apparently in support of last week's siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling had placed Lucas Hall, a trooper out of the Shaftsbury barracks, on unpaid leave last Thursday after the posts came to light.

News of Hall's resignation first broke in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday morning.

"I just got a text message that Sgt. Hall resigned from the Vermont State Police," Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) told fellow senators.

"Good," Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) replied.
Among those calling for Hall's ouster had been Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who said the trooper's sentiments were not compatible with a job in law enforcement.

“God Bless America!!!!" Hall had apparently written on Facebook. “Cheers to the great Patriots in Washington D.C.

“The time has come… Let’s gooooo!!!”

Someone replied to his post by writing, “there are going to be riots,” beside a sad-face emoji.

“It might be war…” Hall responded. “We are beginning to see good, law-abiding citizens stand against a corrupted Government.”

By Tuesday night, before the investigation was completed, Hall resigned.

"His unconditional resignation was immediately accepted," Schirling said in a statement. "The details of the investigation will be forwarded to the Vermont Criminal Justice Council pursuant to Act 56 for consideration of sanctions, including decertification."

Derek Brouwer contributed reporting.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Middlebury College Rescinds Rudy Giuliani's Honorary Degree

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2021 at 8:46 PM

Rudy Giuliani speaking to attendees at the Stop the Steal Rally last Wednesday - YOUTUBE/C-SPAN2
  • YouTube/C-SPAN2
  • Rudy Giuliani speaking to attendees at the Stop the Steal Rally last Wednesday
Middlebury College has made good on its threat to rescind the honorary doctor of laws degree that it conferred upon Rudy Giuliani in 2005.

On Sunday, the Middlebury Campus, the school newspaper, published an editorial urging the college to do just that. The writers noted that, in the wake of the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol building by extremists supporting President Donald Trump, two colleges had revoked honorary degrees previously given to Trump.

The paper also noted that Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, had addressed a Trump rally just hours before attendees headed to the Capitol, urging a "trial by combat" over the results of the 2020 presidential campaign.

College president Laurie Patton issued a statement Sunday calling the riot "an insurrection against democracy itself" and saying a decision on the degree would be made within days.

Tuesday evening, the college announced its decision using a method that the president has favored for years, up until his account was suspended: a tweet.

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Republican Lawmakers Call for VTGOP Leaders to Condemn Trump or Resign

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2021 at 2:55 PM

  • File: Sophie Macmillan ©️ Seven Days
  • Deb Billado
Updated at 3:55 p.m.

Some Republican legislators in Vermont are calling for the resignation of the Trump-loving leaders of the state's GOP if they can’t support removing the president from office.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a joint resolution last week calling for Donald Trump to resign or be removed from office by his cabinet or Congress for his role in inciting the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capital.

The move followed Gov. Phil Scott’s demand for Trump’s removal for “fanning the flames” that led to the mob storming Congress in a failed attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election.

The VTGOP released a statement last week condemning the violence. But it did not acknowledge Trump's role in inciting it, call for him to resign or be removed, or even acknowledge his electoral loss. Party officials need to do all of these things if they claim to represent Vermont Republicans, said Rep. Scott Beck (R-St. Johnsbury).

“I have had some pointed comments at VTGOP leadership, and I have said to them, ‘If you cannot cross these bridges, I think it’s time for you to move on,'” Beck told Seven Days on Tuesday.

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