In the midst of nationwide protests against racialized police brutality, the ACLU of Vermont joins the National ACLU and countless partners and allies in calling for justice for George Floyd, a Black man, killed by Minneapolis police last week, and voicing solidarity with all communities impacted by police violence.

The ACLU of Vermont is pointing to continued police killings of Black people and the violent police responses to protesters as further proof of the urgent need for wholesale changes to policing in the United States.

ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “The police murder of George Floyd and the wanton violence exhibited by police officers in the ensuing protests has shown yet again the need for sweeping reforms to curtail police power, and for more unified efforts to combat systemic racism and end white supremacy in this country.

While some Vermont law enforcement officials have joined in condemning the killing of George Floyd, it is important to remember that some of the same voices have consistently and loudly opposed policing reforms in Vermont. That includes H.808, introduced this year, which would strengthen standards for police use of force. At a time when Vermont police are using deadly force more frequently year after year, these actions—and so much inaction—ultimately speak louder than words.

Police brutality targeting civilians and members of the press again underscores the need to demilitarize police and strengthen accountability—including robust civilian oversight and an end to legal doctrines that shield officers who abuse their power. But that is not enough. We must also defund police departments and divest from policing as an institution, diverting those resources into programs that truly keep our communities healthy and safe—affordable housing, mental health services, treatment programs, and initiatives that increase racial and economic equality. 

Vermonters may feel a world away from Minneapolis and the sites of so many uprisings, but we are not. The data consistently show people of color are stopped and searched by Vermont police at disproportionate rates, and Vermont still incarcerates Black men at one of the highest rates in the nation. As in the rest of the country, COVID-19 is impacting Vermonters of color at vastly disparate rates. Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.

As if it were not already abundantly clear, the events of the past several days again show the need to remedy these disparities and address the ongoing legacy of slavery and racialized violence in this country. That is why the ACLU supports H.R. 40 at the national level, and H. 478, championed by our racial justice allies here in Vermont—both pieces of legislation would advance a long-overdue discussion around reparations, and both are worthy of broad support.

The United States was founded on white supremacy and it will take far more sustained efforts, particularly on the part of white people—including public officials, elected representatives, individuals, and communities—if we are going to root it out. The ACLU is committed to doing everything in our power to make that happen, in solidarity with communities directly impacted by systemic racism and police violence every day.”