Vermont State Police has launched an investigation into a disturbingly racial incident in which an African American man was “flagged down” while driving and told to leave the state.
The man was reportedly driving in his car near his residence in Hartford, which has New York license plates with his 11-year-old son when he was accosted and stopped by two unknown vehicles.
“Thinking some needed assistance”, he stopped, and that was when one of the occupants of the unknown vehicles (a white man) told him, he was “not wanted in Vermont and told to leave,” police said the victim told them.
“There were significant racial undertones to the interaction. The victim, whose 11-year-old son was with him in the vehicle at the time, was in fear for the physical safety of him and his son,” the police said in a statement Wednesday, according to The Hill. “He was able to verbally deescalate the situation and drive home. No physical altercation occurred.”
The director of fair and impartial policing and community affairs for the Vermont State Police, Capt. Garry Scott had already contacted the victim and his family.
The Wednesday statement further stated that the victim’s name was being withheld at this time due to concerns about his and his family’s safety.
“Vermont is and must continue to be a state where visitors feel welcome, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they come from, even during this pandemic,” the state police said. “Seasonal residents, the owners of second homes and guests from beyond our borders remain able to travel to Vermont and live here under current health and safety requirements.”
“Hate speech and threats are disturbing, unacceptable, and have no place in Vermont,” it added.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said the incident was even more “disturbing” with the racial undertone used during this exchange with the individual who is a person of color.
“So let me be very clear, this is not acceptable and it can’t be tolerated and there’s no excuse for it,” CNN quoted him as saying. “Here’s the bottom line: this virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry, or division of any type, for any reason,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, state police investigators do not have descriptions of the vehicles involved, including make, model, registration, and direction of travel.