The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Vermont’s General Counsel, Jay Diaz:

“Mayor Weinberger’s decision to evict the unhoused people sheltering on public land near Sears Lane on short notice and with insufficient protections is not only cruel – it also violates the terms of a settlement agreement the city entered just two years ago. 

In December 2019, the ACLU of Vermont and the City of Burlington entered into a legally binding settlement agreement that protects the due process of rights of local residents experiencing homelessness.  Under this agreement, the city must ensure specific criteria are met before displacing unhoused Vermonters sleeping on undeveloped and wooded public land – and, if those criteria are met, the city must also follow clearly outlined procedures that honor the rights of those experiencing homelessness.

In this instance, we see no grounds for the emergency removal or the collective punishment of these members of our community. Through its actions this week, the city appears to be in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the agreement.

Vacating Sears Lane under these circumstances runs contrary to Burlington’s stated values that all residents be treated with respect and compassion, no matter who they are or what their living circumstances might be. The fact is, the city and the state have failed to adequately fund or implement services that address the root causes of housing insecurity, poverty, mental health concerns, and substance use disorders. Targeting those who are most directly impacted by a failure of leadership and policy is as misguided as it is inhumane.

Rather than punishing, criminalizing, and violating the rights of those who can least afford it, Vermonters want their leaders to invest in community-based solutions to these persistent, complex, and systemic challenges.”