What a week. And now what a weekend.
And yet these next few days likely will further define the tone of our nation. We all sit on pins and needles, anxious — but not eager — for the next page in this horrid chapter of American history. We are hoping this weekend will pass without incident: here and elsewhere.
The week was hardly reassuring. While state law enforcement officials informed us that there was plenty of planning in the lead-up to the call for an “armed march” at all 50 state capitals on Sunday, the reassurance came in statements.
Vermonters need that call for calm right now. It came from Montpelier’s mayor and city council.
Here are some excerpts from Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson’s recorded address to citizens this week. It was later crafted into a resolution that was adopted by the entire city council:
— “Peaceful transference of power is the cornerstone of our democracy in the United States. Last week, the country witnessed a violent attack on that cornerstone, through an inexcusable riot at our Capitol. On behalf of the City of Montpelier and the Montpelier City Council, we fiercely condemn those actions. The election results are lawful and the will of the American people has been made clear.
— “The city joins other local government leaders in calling for justice against those who were involved in the attacks on our Capitol. The individuals who coordinated the riot should be met with the full extent of possible legal consequences for their actions.”
— In response to the call for potential protests and disruptions in Vermont’s Capital City this weekend, Watson stated, “The city calls on all towns and cities — especially our fellow state capitals — to support safe protests and the peaceful transition of power. Lawful assembly, demonstrations, and political speech will be honored and protected. However, unlawful attempts at insurrection, personal injury, property damage, and the like will have legal consequences.
— “While we will always defend the right to protest and to exercise free speech, an armed gathering while national tensions are high has the potential to be very dangerous. All of us are responsible for our own actions. While it’s not an order or a directive, we are asking you to make the safe choice and refrain from direct in-person counter-protest activity due to the risk of violence. There are other ways, safer ways to make your voice heard and to stand up for what you believe in. We’re asking you to consider safety first during these events,” she stated.
— Watson said Montpelier was “working toward a peaceful, safe, and lawful event.”
— “The city is doing its best to prepare for these protests. … We’re going to get through this together. Today, we are a community that cares deeply about each other, and that will still be true on January 21st. In the meantime, I encourage you to exercise, meditate, pray, connect with those you care about, connect with a counselor, or do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.”
That was the message Vermonters needed.
What they got were cold statements from the State Police and the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety that talked about “eventualities that might occur.”
“Police agencies are unaware of any specific, credible threats directed toward the State House, Montpelier or elsewhere in Vermont,” a statement Thursday read. “However, state law enforcement is cognizant of calls for nationwide action including an ‘armed march’ at all 50 state capitals this weekend and next week. … Law enforcement agencies in Vermont and across the country are ensuring that they are taking appropriate steps to plan and provide for the safety of the public.”
Vermonters needed more than assurances about “monitoring and mitigation” and lists of agencies that were collaborating. We all have seen the footage: shows of force do not always end well, and participants do not seem to follow the rule book.
We have crossed a line into a territory that leaves us with questions, especially when answers are lacking. And certainly when compassion is absent.
We commend Montpelier’s leaders, as well as those others who have been spreading kind words of reassurance, and issuing calls for calm. The inter-faith community has taken steps across central Vermont, and elsewhere in the state to help us through this moment of uncertainty.
But we will get through it if we use common sense, and we let cooler heads prevail. And we hope, above all else, that when we publish again on Tuesday morning, we won’t have much to report.
Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?
Stay safe, everyone. Be calm. Be careful, and as Watson stated: “Take care of yourself.”