Vermont Racial Justice Reform – Constitutional Amendment To Remove All Reference To Slavery From the Vermont Constitution

State House

We Call For Racial Justice Reform And The  Removal Of All Reference To Slavery From The Vermont Constitution

The racial climate in The United states continues to deteriorate with shootings of African Americans by law enforcement and even murders of law enforcement officers!   Vermont is not immune to the unprecedented racial justice tensions that we are experiencing in the United States.  Vermont ranks highest the nation at a rate of 1 in 14 African American males in State Prison  (Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing project).  Racial disparities in police traffic stops made by Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, UVM and State police have increased over the last number of years (McDevett, Northestern University and Seguino, UVM).  Something has to be done here at home to raise the awareness of this crisis.  This is the time to advance dialogue and take action on racial disparities in Vermont

Partnering with Black Lives Matter Vermont, Justice For All has launched a Racial Justice Reform Campaign.  Together we have created a petition with an action plan to improve the racial justice climate in Vermont.  The partnership will also offer film viewings, candidate reviews (panel addressing racial justice) and action meetings (community action planning) in counties across the state.  They will also release public television series that will provide an ongoing discussion and updates on racial disparities in Vermont.

We have called for a Constitutional Amendment that eliminates all reference to slavery from the Vermont State Constitution.

“…no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like…”

Constitution of the State of Vermont, CHAPTER I. A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE STATE OF VERMONT, Article 1st. All persons born free; their natural rights; slavery prohibited.

We are also calling on legislators to provide appropriate funding to implement effective transparency into the criminal justice system.  Grants must also be funded to provide resources for racial justice organizations for research, training and education.

Racial disparities in Vermont touches additionally upon access to housing, educational institutions, access to healthcare, employment and various aspects of the political process. It is for this reason that we are asking that the Governor appoint a Racial Justice Oversight Board with the responsibility of administering a program that continuously assesses, reviews and addresses racial disparities in Vermont.

Black Lives Matter Vermont and Justice For All are conducting a fundraiser to offset the time and expenses associated with the Racial Justice Reform Campaign.  We need your support.  Please help us at this critical time with this very important work.  We will keep you updated on our progress by sharing with you our major milestones

Here is the petition.

Please donate here. 


Source: Fundraiser · Help With A Constitutional Amendment To Remove Slavery From the Vermont Constitution ·

Committee Mulls Process For Police Officer Decertification

We Need Police Oversight. Period.

Constitution of The State of Vermont


Article 5. [Internal police]

That the people of this state by their legal representatives, have the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.


The Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Currently decertification can happen only under narrow circumstances, leaving open the possibility that problem officers can hop between departments. But how to remedy that is the subject of debate.

After accusations surfaced that two Rutland City police officers had committed acts of serious misconduct while on the job, an internal investigation found they had engaged in racial profiling. The city paid a $975,000 settlement in a related civil lawsuit, and both officers have left the Rutland force.

But the officers were not at risk of losing their police certification in Vermont. Decertification can happen only under narrow circumstances, leaving open the possibility that problem officers can hop between departments.

Civil rights advocates, lawmakers and many public safety professionals agree the current system for disciplining and decertifying law enforcement officers in Vermont is insufficient. What a new system should look like, however, draws less agreement.

Some are concerned that a new process might impinge on officers’ right to due process. Some see a need for greater consistency across the state’s patchwork of law enforcement agencies. Others say the process needs much more sunlight and civilian input.

Now, an eight-member committee, directed by the Legislature to meet over the summer, is working toward reconciling the different perspectives.

Under the current system, the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council decertifies officers for two primary reasons: if the officer has been convicted of a felony, or if the officer is out of compliance with training requirements. The council can also revoke a certification if it was issued as a result of fraud or in error.

According to the council’s website, six Vermont police officers have been decertified for felony convictions and four for training issues since June 2013. Another was suspended while in training.
Richard Gauthier

Richard Gauthier, left, is executive director of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council. Next to him is Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell, the council chair. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Richard Gauthier, executive director of the training council, said this week that the current process is not sufficient. Even in cases of clear professional misconduct, the council often does not have authority to decertify officers so they cannot work for other agencies.

Lawmakers on the Senate Government Operations Committee worked on establishing a new system for decertification during the 2016 session, but the bill collapsed before a vote. Ultimately the Legislature passed a bill that included the creation of an eight-member committee to make recommendations on certification and discipline ahead of the next legislative session.

Gauthier is part of the summer committee, which also includes representatives from four police associations, a law enforcement member of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, and representatives from the Department of Public Safety and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Gauthier said there has been discussion of a statewide decertification process for decades. He welcomes development of a broader statewide oversight policy.

“We’re starting to approach the level of accountability that nurses and teachers and everybody else has in the state,” Gauthier said.

Kelly Price, a game warden with the Department of Fish and Wildlife who is representing the VSEA on the committee, followed the discussions closely during the legislative session.

“There’s no disagreement that we do need to come up with something that holds officers accountable,” Price said.

But Price is wary of expanding the authority of the training council to overturn results of internal department investigations.

“The concern is that it could be abused,” Price said.

In legislative discussions about establishing a decertification process earlier this year, concerns were raised about how the policy would apply to the Vermont State Police.

Under statute, internal affairs issues within the statewide police force go before the State Police Advisory Commission. There were some concerns that state troopers would not be subject to the same oversight and scrutiny as the rest of the state’s law enforcement officers, according to Price.

Maj. Bill Sheets of the Vermont State Police, who is also vice chair of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, said the State Police is behind the effort to establish clearer internal affairs policies and to make the system of accountability and decertification more robust.

“We support anything that can improve our profession,” Sheets said.

Sheets said he believes the State Police Advisory Commission needs to be referenced in the bill because it is already in statute. He expects the decertification policy under the training council would complement the advisory commission, as it would the internal affairs policies of any other law enforcement agency in Vermont.
Allen Gilbert

Allen Gilbert, retiring executive director of ACLU-Vermont. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Allen Gilbert, the soon-to-retire executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, said oversight of police has been an important issue in the state for more than 200 years: It is the subject of Article 5 of the Vermont Constitution.

Gilbert has been monitoring shortfalls in the state’s police oversight system for a decade.

“It’s not just about disciplining an officer who engages in unprofessional conduct,” Gilbert said. “It’s all about having a system that the public trusts to keep officers the professionals they all want to be.”

The ACLU would favor a police licensing system similar to that in place for many other professions including the medical and legal fields, according to Gilbert. He emphasized the importance of including citizens who are not affiliated with police in the oversight process.

With a licensing system, Gilbert said, the state would “get the independent oversight that creates better professionalism and gives a sense to the public that they can trust the oversight.”

Mark Hughes, of the racial justice group Justice for All, has attended the committee meetings on decertification so far.

Hughes said he sees a fundamental flaw. He believes oversight must be by an independent civilian group, rather than by law enforcement.

“I think that no matter what comes out of this, it’s not going to be enough, because if you start off in the wrong place you’re never going to get to where you have to go,” he said.

Hughes said establishing civilian oversight of police departments is an increasingly popular recommendation for bolstering transparency and trust between law enforcement and the public. It is one of the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, he said.

“It’s imperative that we as civilians understand what’s going on inside of these agencies where these folks have been charged to serve and protect us,” Hughes said. “It is necessary that (police officers) be held to a higher standard because of their roles and responsibilities.”

Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell, who chairs the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, said Tuesday that “clearly something has to be done” to expand the decertification process because the current system is too limited.

As a municipal chief, Brickell hopes the committee will be able to resolve the issues to implement a new policy. He defended the role of the training council in oversight of officer conduct and said it includes two positions for civilians who are involved with decertification decisions.

“It’s not like just police are looking at this issue, but we are the ones that really best understand the profession,” Brickell said.

Brickell also said the council is transparent about the process, holding open meetings and posting decertification decisions online. Gauthier said the potential exists to add more members of the public to the council as part of the effort to expand the oversight process.

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, a member of the Senate Government Operations Committee, said the committee decided to postpone action on any legislation earlier this year in order to allow the major players involved with the discussion more time to reconcile their differences.

“I’m interested in making sure that law enforcement interacts with the public and itself in a consistent manner,” Benning said.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, who chairs Government Operations, said her committee opted to wait until the various representatives of different facets of Vermont’s law enforcement agencies could iron out some of the issues.

“Everybody’s going to have to agree on what the recommendations are,” White said.

She sees a need to look at the oversight and disciplinary policies in place at a statewide level.

“We take hairdressers’ licenses away from them,” White said. “Why would we not consider doing the same thing for law enforcement?”

Source: Committee mulls process for police officer decertification | VTDigger

Black Lives Matter: How Could You Say Otherwise?

On the #BlackLivesMatter Question | ACS

by Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government, American University @Givers1023

For much of white America, the phrase Black Lives Matter elicits thoughts of confusion, anger and resentment. Confusion, anger and resentment over the perception that the phrase, Black Lives Matter, somehow suggests that Black Lives Matter more than All Other Lives – meaning White Lives. All Lives Matter, so goes the rebuttal of some white folks, and Black Lives do not Matter any more or less than the lives of any other American citizen. Another demand for special treatment. Another demand that black folks get their own house in order rather than drawing attention to police brutality directed against unarmed black men, much of which, after we “place things in context,” somehow, after “careful review,” is almost always “justified.”

Among the many problems with this line of reasoning, there is one that stands out:

White America, you’re right . . . Black Lives have always Mattered. For almost four centuries, Black Lives have Mattered a great, great deal to white Americans. We would be a very different country without them. But just not in the way you would like to acknowledge.

Black Lives Mattered so much to the British that colonized North America that they brought their first black slaves to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, just a dozen years after they arrived. By 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, there were approximately 4 million African slaves in the United States. Black Lives Mattered when white America needed black men to do the brute physical work one would associate with animals and later machines. Black Lives Mattered so much to Southern planters that, after tobacco reached its peak as a cash crop in the Upper South, about a million slaves were sold to the owners of cotton plantations in the Deep South, and forced to migrate to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where the hell that awaited them was even more unimaginable than it had been in the tobacco producing states. The Lives of Black Women Mattered even more than black men. Black women gave birth to even more slaves, whether they wanted to or not, and functioned as sexual slaves to white men who, for reasons that only Sigmund Freud might understand, degraded their existence and yet had no problem raping and pillaging them as they pleased. A young male black slave was valued for the physical labor he could provide and nothing more. A young female black slave, especially a pretty one, was doomed to an existence that no civilized person would want to think about. And so we didn’t.

After the Civil War, Black Lives Mattered so much that the South, after the federal government reached an agreement with the Southern states to abandon Reconstruction and return the region to white rule, reinstituted a system of Neo-Slavery called Jim Crow. So valuable was the labor of black men and women that Southern planters, industrialists, politicians, law enforcement and para-military terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan conspired to create a system of peonage and convict labor to dredge the swamps, pick the cotton, split the sugar cane, take care of the children, cook and clean for white folks, make the turpentine, crack the rocks, build the roads to take them to the glorious buildings that neo-slave labor largely built that rose up by the early 20th century and do anything else respectable white people believed was beneath them – and at the lowest possible cost. This system, in which blacks had no say, did not fall apart until the 1960s.

Black Lives Mattered in other ways, too. By the early 20th century, the art and music that emerged from black communities throughout the Southern United States expressing everything from despair to hope to joy to redemption soon became so popular among white Americans that record companies figured out a way to profit from it without really having to pay the artists that created it. Black music became the first genuinely indigenous form of American music, providing the foundation for the blues, jazz, gospel, the popular song, rhythm and blues and rock and roll and changed the way that music was understood and appreciated throughout the world. Yes, indeed, Black Lives Mattered to record and entertainment executives a great deal.

Black Lives soon began to Matter to lovers of collegiate and professional sports, so much so that, beginning in the late 1940s, the white guardians of professional baseball agreed to let one black man play with 149 other white men. Over the next several decades, black men rose to prominence in baseball, soon dominated football and, of course, almost completely took over the court in basketball. By the early 1960s, Black Lives Mattered so much to the NCAA that it began to permit black athletes to play football and basketball, the two highest revenue producing sports in collegiate athletics, with white athletes. The same Southern schools that took such great pride in preventing academically qualified black men and women from attending their whites-only universities decided that they were not going to tolerate a losing sports program, especially football. It became high time, as the phrase then went, “to get some niggers of our own.” There wasn’t a whole of lot of concern about actually providing these athletes with a proper college education – and there still isn’t. But allowing black athletes into historically whites-only institutions of higher education fattened the wallets of a great many people and continues to do so. By any measure, Blacks Lives Matter a great deal to our collegiate and professional sports complexes.

Although it may not seem like it, Blacks Lives have always Mattered in politics, especially in the South. That is why, until 1965, when the moral force of the civil rights movement forced the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Southern states did not let black people vote. In states like South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, that would have doomed white supremacy because of the large – and in the case of South Carolina and Mississippi – majority black populations. So the powers-that-were either threatened, arrested, intimidated, raped and sometimes killed black men and women who registered to vote until the federal government made them stop. Of course, Black Lives Mattered in the Old South. Especially when it came to how white people could acquire and exercise political power.

Black Lives still Matter in politics, which is why the modern Republican Party has spent so much time and effort attempting to disenfranchise black voters, especially black men. Photo ID laws to combat a “voter fraud” problem that doesn’t exist. Making registration more and more complicated. Spurious messaging that preys on poor, semi-literate rural black voters by announcing false election times, closing traditional voting centers or anything else that will suppress the black vote. Yes, Black Lives Matter to the Republican Party, which is the reason it doesn’t want blacks to vote. Let’s take a moment to remember that blacks have only been second-class citizens for 51 years. Before then, they were subjects. When you cannot vote, you are not a citizen. Period.

Black Lives Matter to the “get tough on crime crowd” in Congress and state legislatures, and our penal system at all levels. The United States has created a mindless system of mass incarceration, taking black men and placing them and their most productive years behind bars. Mass incarceration also means that black men are politically the most impotent voting bloc in the country. Approximately one-third of black men are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, making them largely ineligible to vote. One-third. Combine the fact that voting eligible citizens are far less likely to vote when they feel the system does not serve them, and you magnify the problem to even higher degree. So not only does mass incarceration disproportionately destroy the lives of black men and black families, its sabotages the ability of black men to influence a political system that has demeaned and brutalized them – and for longer – like no other subset of American people. To our criminal justice system, yes, Black Lives Matter. A lot.

There are many more examples of how Black Lives have Mattered over the course of American history. But how Blacks Lives have Mattered to white America is very different than how black Americans believe that Black Lives Matter. And, if you listen very carefully, white America, you will hear that is what this movement is about. Black people want to show white America what it’s like to be black from their side of the camera. Black people want white people to see what happens to young, unarmed black men like Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. Black people really want to know – and are willing to listen – why some white people really think George Zimmerman was justified in murdering Trayvon Martin. Black people really want to know if you think Philando Castille would have been killed in front of his family if he was white. Black people want to know why some white people believe that if I teach three black students in a class of 30 rather than just one or two that will somehow threaten your child’s ability to attend college and build a life. Black people really want to know why some white people are so afraid of them that, eight years ago, they invented a right that did not exist for the previous 209 years under the Constitution to own guns designed to do nothing more to kill other people, including school children, and, ironically, pierce the vests that police officers wear to protect themselves from you. Because you do know that white people are far more likely to kill a police officer than a black person? Right?

Black Lives Matter is not something to fear. Black Lives Matter is not an indictment of every single non-black person in the United States. Black Lives Matter is not demanding a revolution through armed force. Black Lives Matter is mad – this is not the Civil Rights Movement of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis – and wants white America to know why. Black Lives Matter is asking you to realize that even white people of goodwill continue to benefit from a system that white people created and have maintained for almost 400 years.

Black Lives Matter wants white people to know that Black Lives Matter just as much as White Lives Matter. And when that happens – when Black and White Lives Matter equally, then we will have reached the point where All Lives Matter. Until then, keep expecting to hear, whether white folks like it or not, why Black Lives Matter.

And don’t be afraid. Just listen.

Source: On the #BlackLivesMatter Question | ACS

Justice For All Black Lives Matter Vermont Partner – Action Meeting

Two Groups Become One to Invoke Change

Two Groups Become One to Invoke Change  Megan Carpenter  By Megan Carpenter | mcarpenter@nexstar.tvPublished 07/14 2016 11:24PMUpdated 07/14 2016 11:42PM Partnering for Change  The nation is still coping with the tragic shootings of the past couple of weeks. Many people are wondering where to turn, or what they can do to make a difference.

The nation is still coping with the tragic shootings of the past couple of weeks.  Many people are wondering where to turn, or what they can do to make a difference.

“I think in a predominantly white state, it’s easy to opt out of these conversations and think it’s just for people of color to be worrying about,” says Kelly Walsh, a volunteer with Central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice.  “Whenever we do that, we’re disenfranchising that group further.”

Various ages, races, and genders united at Unitarian Church of Montpelier Thursday to learn how they can invoke change.

“Just in Vermont, one in 100 people are African American, but 10 in 100 are incarcerated,” says Co-Founder of Vermont non-profit group Justice for All.

Following deadly shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, Justice for All and Black Lives Matter VT announced a partnership leaders hope will highlight their long-time connection and provide an outlet for others.

“We’re looking for ways to support one another, to provide support to the community, and we understand that with our collective strength we have a further reach and we’ll have a louder voice,” says Hughes.  He and Black Lives Matter VT leader Ebony Nyoni are close friends.

Hughes reminds people this initiative is far from just beginning.  He says his organization has been working with state and local law enforcement, as well as the state’s attorney’s office to ensure equal rights is the status quo in Vermont.

“The way to work with institutionalized racism is to speak to power and to work with authorities,” says Hughes.

Those attending Thursday’s meeting were refreshed by the diversity is attracted.

“Even though I’m in an interracial relationship, this is still very new to see people getting together to support the minority groups that are here,” says Tonja Shingu of Montpelier.

“Hopefully, coming here will help us to make change and make the world a better place for every one of us,” says Antoine Shingu of Montpelier.

The gathering offered people a chance to participate in a phone bank, voicing concerns to local legislators.  People could make signs, plan vigils, and organize marches as well.  Hughes says future activities are planning for July 28 and August 4 in Chittenden County.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Source: Two Groups Become One to Invoke Change – Story

President’s Town Hall Meeting on Race: A Message of Hope

The president held a town hall meeting on race in America while we were at the amazing Action Meeting last night.  Tony Facos, Montpelier Police Chief shared he tail end of the meeting with me this morning.  Thanks Tony!

A son of Shetamia Taylor, the mother who was shot protecting her sons during the Dallas police shooting last week, told President Obama he wants to be a police officer.

Obama spoke as part of a Disney Media Networks town hall titled “The President and the People: A National Conversation,” which aired Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and was simulcast commercial-free on ABC, ESPN, Freeform,, Freeform Digital, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, Yahoo, ABC News’ Facebook page and YouTube channel as well as ABC Radio and ESPN Radio. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

During an earlier interview with ABC News, Jermar’s mother said that she’d heard two gunshots when the shooting began the night of July 7. She said she was running behind her sons and then felt a bullet hit the back of her leg.

“My son went to grab me but I was already shot so I grabbed him and lay on top of him,” she said. “Police asked was anybody hit, because he didn’t know I was shot. I said yes, but not loud enough because I didn’t want my son to hear.

“The officer got on top of me and covered me and my son. Another cop [was] at my feet and another [stood] by us and they protected us. I saw another officer get shot in front of me.”

Taylor said that the majority of the officers who shielded her were white, and said the experience made her “admiration for police greater,” while acknowledging that she always admired the efforts of law enforcement.

Her sons attended the town hall today in her absence. Obama said that he’d met Shetamia Taylor and her husband, Jermar’s parents, immediately after meeting with the families of the five police officers who died in Dallas.

“Well, I think you’ll make an outstanding police officer. … They were very proud of you,” Obama said. “We’re proud of you.”


Source: Son of Mom Shielded by Officers in Dallas Tells Obama He Wants to Become Cop – ABC News

Death in black and white | Harvard Gazette

Harvard Law School’s Ronald Sullivan discusses the shocking eruption of deadly violence between police and African-Americans in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas.

Source: Death in black and white | Harvard Gazette

Death in black and white

Police training can change the dynamics of confrontation, if more communities embrace it, Harvard analyst says

July 11, 2016 | Editor’s Pick Popular
Police Shootings Louisiana

The shooting deaths of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota at the hands of police last week, captured on social media, followed by the killing of five Dallas officers by a retaliating sniper, shocked the nation and left many Americans feeling like the country is unraveling.

Police supporters and critics of the Black Lives Matter movement complain that citizen protests and inflammatory rhetoric are inciting violence against law enforcement. Movement supporters and protestors seeking reforms say that unpunished police violence against black people is fanning community anger.

Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is a legal theorist in areas including criminal law, criminal procedure, and race theory, and serves as faculty director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. In a Q&A session, Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about the shootings and the longstanding tensions between police and African-Americans.

SULLIVAN: These three events do feel radically different, but I do not think that they are substantively different. My view is that the temporal relation among these three events, having occurred back-to-back-to-back, is having a profound effect on the American public. And to the degree that there are sides or camps — Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter — everybody feels aggrieved in the same very short, compressed time period. So there is indeed a profound feeling of disquiet, but nothing is substantively different. The mistreatment of citizens of color at the hands of law enforcement has been occurring for decades, and the African-American community in particular is quite used to what we saw in Minnesota and Baton Rouge.

Professor Ron Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about the future of race and policing in America. Photo by Ethan Thomas

“All public servants should be subject to civilian review,” said Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. Photo by Ethan Thomas

GAZETTE: Will video documentation of routine police encounters be the new norm, and does it meaningfully help to ensure fair treatment?

SULLIVAN: The new media has exposed this problem to the broader public in a way that’s never been shown before. So now people from all walks of life are able to see with their own two eyes the ways in which people are literally killed right on their television or computer screen, how unarmed people are killed, how unarmed people are shot, people with valid carry-conceal permits are shot. It’s heart-wrenching, it’s scary, and it’s something that should not happen in the United States of America. But for these cellphones, dash cams, and body cams, we would be in the position we were 10 years ago where the complaints of communities of color would go largely unheard because there was no tangible proof that law enforcement had misbehaved.

Recording police activities is fast becoming the new norm, and I think it should become the new norm. There’s an old saying: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” I think that applies here. All public servants should be subject to civilian review. The people should be able to see what their police force is doing. If you think about it, we give up a lot to our police. We allow them to detain us, to put citizens in jail. In exchange for giving up our liberty, we expect police officers to act appropriately, to act professionally, to act justly, and to act fairly. And if they don’t, they should be held up to the scrutiny of their departments and to the courts, as appropriate.

The costs of inequality: Faster lives, quicker deaths

GAZETTE: Since the Ferguson, Mo., clashes two years ago, the number of black people killed by police has gone up. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Philando Castile of Minnesota is the 123rd black person killed by police in the United States this year. There have been calls and efforts to institute changes in police training, operations, and culture, and yet little seems to have improved. Why is that, and what else needs to happen to end this cycle?

SULLIVAN: I am heartened by the very many policy changes that we’re seeing around the country in police departments. But institutions are made up of people and often the behavior of people lags behind policy changes. So we have to insist that the behavior catches up. Behavior is habituated, and what happens is that the current top cadre of officers behave habitually, they do what they’ve been doing, and it takes some time for them to really address the new policies and change the way of operating, particularly with respect to communities of color. But I’m confident that in time they will adjust. But the first step is to recognize that there’s a problem. And the difficulty thus far has been the intransigence of police officers, of law enforcement, to even admit that they treat white citizens preferentially and citizens of color unequally. Once that admission is made, then and only then can meaningful change produce the sort of fruits that some of these policy changes should produce.

I hope we don’t have to wait for a new generation of officers to come in for these changes. Many police departments around the country are doing implicit-bias training, and even with the existing cadre of law enforcement, this sort of training tends to work because it makes people realize that they hold implicit biases, subconscious biases. And we all do — everybody of every color, every hue, every ethnicity holds biases. We all have priors, and we bring them to the table. To the degree that we can foreground those biases, recognize that we have particular biases, then we can behave in a way that accounts for those biases, and that’s what this sort of implicit bias training will do. There are some wonderful models of policing around the country. The HUPD right here at Harvard does remarkable work with respect to cultural sensitivity and implicit bias training and other efforts that sit at the forefront of policing. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office is another that is making radical changes to the way they prosecute, and hence the way police officers behave in street encounters with citizens. We have many examples of good policing across the country. What we do not have is the political will to implement those changes in a mass sort of way. Some of these things are expensive; we need the political will to pay for them. Community policing, for example, has been around for a long time. It does cost a little more money, but it works. If we want to break this juggernaut, we really have to invest in policing.

GAZETTE: African-American people have long felt under siege, and many police officers say they too feel under attack by criticism from the Black Lives Matter movement and others. In a news conference last week, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said police “don’t feel supported most days.” How can we get beyond this stalemate when there’s such deeply felt mutual distrust?

SULLIVAN: First and foremost, I reject the notion that there’s any moral equivalency whatsoever between the claims of police being mistreated and communities of color being mistreated. Police are not being shot in the street year in and year out. There’s no history of police officers being dehumanized, being beaten, being inappropriately stopped and targeted. That absolutely doesn’t exist. Having said that, the event in Dallas was a tragedy, and it was wrong. But to say that police are under siege in the way communities of color are under siege is downright false. Why do police feel under siege? I think that they feel genuinely under siege because they’ve never been held accountable to communities of color before. There’s a long and unbroken history of law enforcement being able to treat citizens of color in any way they choose with no repercussions whatsoever. Communities of color around the country are now insisting that they be treated equally under the law, and that’s the only fair and right and just thing to do. There’s resistance from an institution that has historically mistreated this community. They’ve never been questioned; their judgment’s never been challenged.

Notwithstanding that they feel under siege, I’m not willing to give voice to that. They’re professionals, they’re trained in a certain way, and they should behave professionally. As a lawyer, I sometimes feel under siege by judges, but I don’t mistreat my clients, I’m a professional. We should hold our police and military and any other serious profession to the very same high standard. The subjective feelings of a group of professionals cannot define policy. That would be a mistake. It is up to the civilian leadership to insist that its police force always and unconditionally behaves professionally and treats each citizen equally under the law. That should be the starting point. And if an individual officer’s subjective feelings prevent her or him from doing that, there are many other professions in the world that they should engage in, but they should not be a police officer.

GAZETTE: How is your work in critical race theory reflected in the events of the last few days?

SULLIVAN: The basic underlying premise of critical race theory is that race insinuates itself into very many if not all aspects of our lives. And these are very real-time, real-life examples of the ways in which race seeps into our understanding and behavior. Someone sent me something over Twitter of two police officers fighting with a very large, Caucasian male in a diner, and the caption was “He’s still alive.” He was swinging at the officers, [but] they never pulled out a weapon. They ultimately subdued and arrested him. The predominant feeling among citizens of color is that if that person had been a very large African-American man, he would’ve been dead. That’s just an example of the way that race motivates behavior. We all live in this country with its history of race, and we’re all impacted by it — black, white, and other equally. Putting on the uniform does not change that. But it’s incumbent on the police department to train its officers in such a way that these biases can be weeded out as much as possible and, whatever remains, exposed and dealt with in appropriate ways.

GAZETTE: As a nation, what questions aren’t we asking? Which issues aren’t we confronting?

SULLIVAN: We still have not adequately dealt as a nation with the race question: the legacy of slavery and the remnants of Jim Crow that still haunt our workaday lives. And until such time as the country is willing and able to have real, substantive conversations and engage in meaningful, remedial efforts, we’re going to continue to see these sorts of episodes. So we have a challenge ahead of us. I think we are able to meet that challenge as a country. James Baldwin once said that the history of America, and the history of African-Americans in particular, is the history of making the impossible possible. So I have full faith that the country can do it. We just need to generate the political will to do it.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Press Release – Black Lives Matter and Justice for All Announce Partnership: Community Joint Action Meeting

African American men continue to die at the hands of law enforcement. Frustration fuels senseless murders of law enforcement and the nation becomes further divided.   Nationally, over one-third of the seven million people incarcerated or otherwise under the supervision of corrections are African American.   Vermont, statistically leads the nation with one in 14 African American males incarcerated in State prisons. Vermont is 5th in the nation for state prison black / white differential at 10.5.

What are our next steps in addressing the racial divide in Vermont and the Disparities in the Criminal Justice System and beyond? Black lives Matter Vermont and Justice For All announced an alliance to address racial disparities in Vermont.


For immediate Release:

Montpelier, Vermont, July 12, 2016 – Black Lives Matter Vermont and Justice For All today announced a partnership to increase awareness and intensify efforts in addressing racial disparities in Vermont. In light of recent national events and latest reports of disparities  in the criminal justice system, concerns have emerged in Vermont.

Ebony Nyoni of Black Lives Matter Vermont said, “We must continue to advance the cause for what we know to be just. We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted with the narrative that somehow our cause is wrong because a person, seemingly suffering emotionally and unassociated with our cause resorted to misguided actions against law enforcement”, referring to the unrest in Dallas.

A report released last month by Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing Project placed Vermont as the nation leader with a rate of one in 14 African American males in State Prison and ranking fifth highest in the nation with a black / white differential of 10.5. The reports of Dr Jack McDevett of Northeastern University and Stepahanie Seguino of UVM indicate that in the past five years, the situation in Vermont has actually worsened concerning racial disparities related to traffic stops and searches by State, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and UVM police.

The partnership will conduct their first Joint Action Meeting 7:00 PM, Thursday evening at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier. Community members are invited to attend and get involved with action items that are currently being planned or underway and/or bring their own ideas. “There will be several activities that community members can participate in at the meeting, including an Action Phone Bank”, Allyson Sironi, co-founder of Justice for All, commented. “People have been feeling hopeless and asking what, if anything can be done.” Film Viewings and Social Justice Reviews with various candidates are being planned across the state and various recommendations have been put forward for state and local government to take action. Ebony Nyoni commented, “There is a place for everyone to get involved to address institutionalized racism in Vermont.”

“Our partnership is an important one that will dramatically impact the institutionalized racism and associated racial disparities throughout Vermont. Black Lives Matter!” Mark Hughes, Co-founder of Justice For All commented.


About Justice For All

Justice for All is a Vermont-based, racial justice non-profit organization that identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism and facilitates healing and empowerment in Vermont communities. They ensure justice for all through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform and judicial monitoring. To this end they address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.


Contact Information

Mark Hughes, Co-founder, Justice For All

o: (802) 532-3030


t: @Justice4AllVT



Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson was arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, late Saturday night as he live-streamed from his Periscope account.

McKesson was participating in a march in the city where officers shot and killed Alton Sterling last week. The video from Periscope, an app that broadcasts live footage, shows McKesson marching along the highway as ordered by officers, who tell him to stay within the “sidewalk.” But the video cuts abruptly at the 4:45 mark, when an officer says, “You’re under arrest.” The feed shakes as the phone moves around, and McKesson says, “I’m under arrest, y’all.”

According to Wesley Lowery, a reporter at the Washington Post, McKesson was taken to a holding cell along with 33 others.

Brittany Packnett, another prominent activist who was marching directly behind McKesson, can be heard in the video telling the officer, “We’re on the shoulder, there is no sidewalk sir.”

An officer appears to identify McKesson by his “loud shoes.” (McKesson is known for wearing a blue vest and red sneakers.) “You in them loud shoes, if I see you in the road, if I get close to you, you’re going to jail,” the officer says.

Packnett picked up McKesson’s phone and continued to stream the aftermath of the arrest. “He was standing on the side of the road. He was not disobeying police officers whatsoever. He was snatched and grabbed,” she says.

“Start calling the Baton Rouge Police Department to demand that he’s released,” she tells viewers. After her encouragement to share the department’s contact information on Twitter, many promptly followed her instructions:

”He very clearly was behind the white line,” Packnett told The Huffington Post.

McKesson, along with hundreds of other protesters, gathered in the streets to speak out against this week’s police killings of Sterling and Philando Castile. His arrest occurred as protesters walked away from a lengthy demonstration that had begun to die down.

Protesters marched down the roads alongside police, who were equipped with riot gear. McKesson captured the tense moments on his Twitter timeline, and described how police were “provoking protesters” during the demonstration.