100 Rally

About 70 people attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Keene on July 4. It was organized by Conor Hill and two other people. Hill did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The Valley Post has interviewed him in the past and will post his comment in the “comments” section at the bottom of this article.

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Until now, no news outlet has covered a July 1 Code Pink rally in Northampton. Dozens of people attended the rally. The rally was to protest Trump's support of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank in Palestine. More information is at www.CodePink.org.

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In a July 10 telephone interview, Steffen Gillom told the Valley Post it has been 12 months since three members of the Windham county, Vermont NAACP met with a Brattleboro police captain to seek answers about an alleged incident of racial profiling. Gillom is president of the group, which has a web site at www.windhamNAACP.org. Answers have not been received. Two African American men were driving in Brattleboro. Because there was an air freshener hanging from their rear view mirror, their vehicle was impounded and towed to the police department. The two men, who live in New York, were allegedly held in a jail cell for hours, interrogated, then released overnight in Brattleboro. The men went back to the police station the next day to get their vehicle. The three NAACP members reported that the police refused to provide any record of what happened.

On July 9, 2020 the Brattleboro police chief declined to comment. He said he will provide the Valley Post with a comment at an undefined future date. The Valley Post will post his comment in the “comments” section at the bottom of this article.

As of 2018, Brattleboro police were killing people at a rate far higher than the national average. Details are at:

http://valleypost.org/2018/07/17/brattleboro-police-kill-high-rate

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On July 7 the head of the Monadnock Conservancy told the Valley Post his group had saved 183 acres of forestland near Keene.

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On July 29 activists in the Pioneer Valley will hand deliver petitions to at least one Stop and Shop store manager in the Valley. The petition calls on Stop and Shop to cut ties with their meat supplier, Cargill, until Cargill pledges to end its deforestation of the Amazon and pollution of U.S. waterways. "Cargill is the largest and most polluting agribusiness in the world. Massachusetts residents are coming together to ask Boston-based Stop and Shop to stand up for forest protection and climate action," according to the activists' web site: www.MightyEarth.org.

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Brattleboro Hannaford supermarket worker Parker Anderson told the Valley Post, “On June 29, I walked off the job with three other workers after we were told that our hazard pay had been cut. The hazard that is the Covid-19 pandemic has not ended, Vermont’s state of emergency is not over, the need to wear masks in public places isn’t gone, and despite this, Hannaford took away the compensation that their employees deserve for putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. In addition to the risk of contracting Covid-19, for the duration of the pandemic my department, as well as many others, was understaffed, as I'm sure many essential services are at this time. The expectation quickly became to work harder and faster without any concern for the physical toll that was having on people. One employee was so affected by these conditions that it caused a serious medical issue that put them in the hospital.”

Anderson continued, “Employee concerns are always met with the same noncommittal responses that I'm sure most working class people know by heart: 'We'll do what we can,' 'My hands are tied,' 'I'll look into it,' 'We appreciate your hard work.' These vague responses never really go anywhere, and without union representation, there isn't much else an employee can do... Now more than ever, we live in a country that gives employers all the power... to exploit workers and put their health and well-being in danger. It's a week after the walkout, and I am the only one left on strike. My co-workers couldn't afford to be out of work. In a small town like Brattleboro, having your name connected with something like a walkout or a strike is dangerous for your future employment. Much of New England is viewed as a progressive part of the country but as of the end of June, most employers offering hazard pay have ended it, while many businesses never had hazard pay to begin with.”

The union that represents workers at the food co-ops in Brattleboro, Greenfield, and Northampton, and the workers at all the Stop and Shops in the Pioneer Valley, has a web site at www.ufcw1459.com.

Comments

from the Brattleboro police chief

In summer, 2019, Steffen Gillom, president of the Windham County NAACP, contacted the Brattleboro police department via email and requested a meeting to discuss an allegation of misconduct by the department. At the meeting, attended by three NAACP members and a police captain, the organization explained the specifics of their complaint.

One of the NAACP members had met and had a brief interaction with two African American men. That member relayed an experience that the two men claimed to have had with the police. The men did not say which department they dealt with, and the NAACP stated they did not know either.

The men stated that the previous day they had been stopped on Interstate 91 by police while driving to New York. The alleged reason for the stop was a hanging air freshener. The car was searched and marijuana seized. The car was towed and the men were held and interrogated until 10PM. They were then released and had been walking all night. They were now trying to find the local police department in an effort to find and claim their vehicle.

The NAACP members did not recall the names of the men but provided three possibilities. Their complaint, on the subjects’ behalf, was that it just didn’t seem right that the police would stop two black men, tow their car, hold them for hours, then release them to walk the streets. They questioned how a stop for an air freshener could turn into two travelers walking the streets all night.

BPD began an investigation to determine what might have occurred, and the first step of that process was to identify when and where the vehicle stop occurred and who had conducted it. This included a search by the subject’s names and variations in BPD computer records. This included generated cases, names tables, radio logs, vehicle stop logs, tickets issued, warnings issued, arrests made, citations issued, and vehicles towed. There was no indication of an event with this fact pattern or anything similar on the alleged date, nor the day before or after.

The investigation continued and involved a search of the BPD holding cell log. The evidence database was searched for an indication that marijuana had been seized or if a vehicle had been towed. A search of body camera videos was conducted for the subject period. A search of cruiser video was conducted for the subject period. It should be noted that BPD cruisers are programmed so that the blue lights can not be turned on without the camera automatically being activated to record. Videos are then automatically and wirelessly downloaded to a centralized computer server, to which officers do not have access for modification or deletion. There was no indication of an event with this fact pattern or anything similar on the alleged date, nor the day before or after.

Continuing the investigation, every BPD employee was polled to indicate if they had any knowledge of or participation in such an incident. BPD does not own a tow truck and therefore contracts with local towing companies when cars are to be seized. Billing records were reviewed to determine if BPD had requested a towing company to transport a vehicle on or around these days. There was no indication of an event with this fact pattern or anything similar on the alleged date, nor the day before or after.

During this investigation, the NAACP was provided updates as to its status. The investigation was completed in less than three weeks, and the NAACP was notified of the findings. The CPCC was given a copy of the results and reviewed them at a public meeting, consistent with state open meeting laws.

Like the NAACP, the Brattleboro police would like to get to the bottom of this matter. Unfortunately, there is simply no indication that an event like this occurred involving the Brattleboro police.

from Conor Hill

The July 4 rally went well. We had two counter-protestors, though. Amazing speeches and performances!

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